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What’s cooking? The normalization of meat in YouTube recipe videos consumed by South Asian British Muslims

Three-dimensional YouTube logo by Alexander Shatov via Unsplash.

The 'meat paradox' is defined as enjoying meat whilst disapproving of animals suffering or being killed. This study looked into how social media videos and TV cookery programmes can influence viewers to overcome the meat paradox. The authors chose to look specifically at British Muslims because studies suggest they are a group whose eating habits are significantly influenced by such media types and also consume more meat per capita than the national average.

This study discusses how cooking videos on TV and social media (particularly YouTube) allow people to overcome the cognitive dissonance associated with the ‘meat paradox’. The meat paradox is defined as enjoying eating meat whilst disapproving of animals suffering or being killed. The study looked at British Muslims in particular because they eat more meat per capita than the national average. The 2021 YouGov survey suggests cookery programs on television and videos on social media are the two main media types influencing how British South Asian Muslims eat.

Seventy-seven videos were chosen, 58 of which were from celebrity chefs (Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay, Nigella Lawson, and Nadiya Hussain, chosen for their prominence on UK TV and influence on the British public), whilst the remaining 19 were videos of halal recipes (found using the search term ‘halal recipes’ and using the country code UK). In the 77 videos studied, only 11 (14%) were vegetarian/vegan, with the rest containing at least some meat.  In videos containing meat, its consumption is justified in three main ways - ‘absenting’ its animal origins (making it appear more normal); ‘defaultization’ (making it seem like a necessary or natural choice when cooking)’ and associating it with positive emotional routines (linking it to family celebrations and indulgence to making it seem necessary and nice to eat). Both videos from celebrity chefs and halal recipe videos showed similar trends. Overall, this study shows how disengagement techniques in video media allow people to overcome the ‘meat paradox’ by justifying meat consumption as ‘normal’, ‘natural’, ‘necessary’, and ‘nice’.



Muslim consumers in the UK eat more meat than the national average. Individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds, particularly South Asian communities, experience poorer health outcomes, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, associated with meat consumption. According to a YouGov survey, British Pakistani and Bangladeshi consumers use television cookery programs and social media (particularly YouTube) as their main digital sources of dietary information. Against this background, this study uses a mixed-method approach to show how meat is normalized in YouTube recipe content. Using quantitative analysis of 77 recent recipe videos presented by four leading British chefs (Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay, Nigella Lawson and Nadiya Hussain) and halal recipe videos, we find that meat-based recipes overwhelmingly outnumber vegetarian/vegan ones, and that, whereas environmental or animal welfare concerns are hardly mentioned, health narratives feature in some videos. Using critical discourse analysis of a sample of videos, we show how meat consumption is rationalized by the “absenting” of meat’s animal origins (making it “normal”), the “defaultization” of meat (making it “natural” and “necessary”), and “positive emotional routines” (making it “nice” and “necessary”). We consider how these representations of meat serve to overcome the “meat paradox” and legitimize, and thereby normalize, meat consumption among British Muslims.



Mroz, G., Mazhary, H. and Painter, J., 2023. What’s cooking? The normalization of meat in YouTube recipe videos consumed by South Asian British Muslims. Food, Culture & Society, pp.1-19.

Read the full paper here. See also the TABLE blog On flesh and the spirit: understanding British Muslims' meat consumption by one of the paper's authors Hibba Mazhary.

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