Date of Award


Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name



Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology


Animal Agriculture, Dietary Behaviour, Food Crime, Green Criminology, Plant-meat, Social Harm


Amy J. Fitzgerald




Plant-meat, or a protein-based foodstuff representing an alternative to meat products, is increasingly lining grocery store shelves and filling the plates of consumers across Canada and beyond. Current plant-meat products even ‘bleed’ and taste similar to ‘real meat’ thanks to new technologies in processing the grains and legumes that comprises them. Simultaneously, individuals across the globe are increasingly aware of the myriad of ways animal agriculture and meat consumption are harming the natural environment through excessive emissions, pollution, and resource use. This awakening is embedded in a broader critical reflection of the role of humanity in contributing to a pending climate catastrophe – a spatial and temporal-based concept defined as the Anthropocene. These events have led to calls for the potential of (global) dietary change in mitigating the environmental harms caused by animal agriculture and even a climate catastrophe more generally. In particular, the potential of substituting plant-meat for animal-based meat is positioned as an effective and efficient approach. Current research on dietary change, including its connection with human-nature relationships and perceptions of environmental harm, is not only limited and sporadic, but often relies on grouping participants by dietary identities, inaccurate or incomplete definitions of meat (and alternatives to meat), and/or partial or limited conceptualizations of environmental harm. This dissertation aims to address these shortcomings while examining the role of plant-meat in sustainable dietary change. This involves exploring the position plant-meat within individuals’ relationships with the natural environment and food, as well as its position in individuals’ perceptions of contributors of environmental harm, alongside motivations for, and barriers to, dietary change incorporating plant-meat. The results are based on data collected via an online survey with a representative sample of students at the University of Windsor (n=874). Statistical exploration involved three distinct analyses comparatively examining (1) the links between participants’ ideological and behavioural relationships with the natural environment and food, (2) how their perceptions concerning contributors of environmental harm are associated with current dietary behaviour and willingness for dietary change, and (3) their motivations for, and barriers to, willingness to reduce or substitute (plant-meat for) their meat consumption. While only small proportions of the sample report currently eating minimal meat (18%) or eating plant-meat often (8%), up to half of participants are willing to either reduce their meat consumption (50%) or substitute with plant-meat (42%). These numbers exemplify the potential of the role of plant-meat in dietary change, and the results suggest this potential intensifies if participants hold stewardship-style relationships with the natural environment and food, are knowledgeable about the environmental harms associated with meat production and consumption, and are driven by ethical or environmental motivations rather than by health concerns. I interpret these findings alongside implications of changing conceptualizations of the natural environment and food, education initiatives, and practical interventions for a more sustainable future.