Exploring the role of social norms in contributing to sustainable reduced meat food choices, offline and on social media

Grantham Scholar Vibhuti Patel’s research explores ways to encourage reduced meat consumption by looking at the role of social norms in eating behaviour.

The project

Current rates of meat production and consumption are a leading cause of multiple environmental and social problems, including habitat loss, water scarcity, global hunger, species extinction, chronic disease, and climate change. However, meat eating is an entrenched social norm in many western countries, and shifting diets to incorporate more plant-based foods is challenging.

My research seeks to encourage reduced meat consumption. To do this, I explore what it means for a behaviour to be “normal” through psychological and sociological lenses. Reduced meat diets (vegetarianism, veganism, flexitarianism) are becoming increasingly popular, and may constitute a shifting norm here in the UK. The primary aim of my research is to investigate whether these shifting social norms may influence others to reduce their meat intake in food choice “nudge” interventions.

I am a member of the Faculty of Public Health UK’s Food Special Interest Group and Sustainable Diet Working Group, which represents and furthers the Faculty’s work on sustainability and social equity issues related to the food system. I am also providing my expertise to a project in collaboration with the University of Nottingham, aiming to reduce the use of wood burning stoves during times of poor air quality. My background is in ecology, and my other research interests include environmental worldviews, environmental communication and education, ethics, and human-animal relations.

Social media

You can find Vibhuti on Twitter.

And check out her website: www.vpatel.co.nz


Postgrad awards 2022: Grantham Scholars shortlisted. Grantham Scholars Jocelyne Sze and Vibhuti Patel both shortlisted in the Postgrad Awards 2022!

Multidisciplinary knowledge exchange and cake. At Internal Seminars and Cake – ISAC – the Grantham Scholars showcase their work in an informal setting. Vibhuti was one of the presenters who Centre Administrator Jana Green captured on camera for this write up of ISAC March 2022.

Vibhuti Patel 5th Grantham Scholar in Springer’s SDG Encyclopedia. Vibhuti Patel is the 5th Grantham Scholar to be published in Springer’s SDG encyclopaedia with a chapter about the ethics of food production and consumption.

Vibhuti Patel’s publications

Vibuhti Patel, Miranda Mirosa, Nicola J. Buckland (2024) Testing the effect of descriptive dynamic social norm messages on meatless food purchases in Aotearoa New Zealand and UK university food outlets, Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, Sec. Nutrition and Sustainable Diets,
Volume 8 – 27 March 2024

Vibhuti Patel, Nicola J. Buckland, Perceptions about meat reducers: Results from two UK studies exploring personality impressions and perceived group membership, Food Quality and Preference, Volume 93, 2021, 104289, ISSN 0950-3293,

Larner, E., Fish , A., Way, C., Muir , K., Graham , F., Armstrong , B., Patel , V., Knight , D., Jourdain , R., Allen , T., Armstrong , I., Collister , J., Barnett , O., & Reynolds, C. (2021). Reaction to a low-carbon footprint food logo and other sustainable diet promotions in a UK University’s Student Union ‘Living Lab’. Future of Food: Journal on Food, Agriculture and Society, 9(1). Retrieved from https://www.thefutureoffoodjournal.com/index.php/FOFJ/article/view/321

Patel V. (2020) Ethics of Food Production and Consumption. In: Leal Filho W., Azul A., Brandli L., Özuyar P., Wall T. (eds) Zero Hunger. Encyclopedia of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-69626-3_16-1


Professor Helen Kennedy

Department of Sociological Studies