Maintaining Meat: Cultural Repertoires and the Meat Paradox in a Diverse Sociocultural Context

Merin Oleschuk, Josée Johnston, Shyon Baumann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite rising concerns about the meat industry and animal slaughter, meat consumption in Europe and North America remains relatively high, what has been called the “meat paradox.” In this article, we examine a diverse sample of Canadian meat eaters and vegetarians to build on earlier work on the psychological strategies people employ to justify eating meat. We analyze the explanations people give for meat eating within the context of what sociologists term cultural repertoires—the taken-for-granted, unarticulated scripts that inform actions. We distinguish between two types of repertoires: identity repertoires that have a basis in personal, embodied group identities and regularly draw from vivid first-person experiences; and liberty repertoires that are more abstractly conceptualized and signal peoples' sense of their rights in social space. We find that these repertoires function in distinct ways, both in regard to how participants situated themselves within them, and in their capacity to facilitate active engagement with the ethical implications of conduct. Through these repertoires, we show how the meanings attributed to meat consumption are crucial for understanding its persistence in the face of strong reasons to change, while also advancing literature on cultural repertoires by highlighting their variability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-360
Number of pages24
JournalSociological Forum
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • attitude-behavior gap
  • consumption
  • cultural repertoires
  • food
  • meaning
  • meat paradox

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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