Why do people care about meat?

I've been working on a project to attempt to quantify the best way to reach people involving the use of animals in agriculture. I'd like to share some preliminary results here, in the hope that it will inform your pamphleteering, questions or just plain curiosity.

One interesting datum is to ask what the most popular stories on social news sites involving meat production/consumption are. Here are the 9 most highly voted stories regarding this on Reddit in the last few months (see Methodology section below for remarks on how this, and all other data, was collected):

  1. If a new Minnesota bill becomes law, anyone caught going undercover to film or record animal abuses at a factory farm could be sentenced to five years in jail.
  2. Costco announces that it won't carry pork from farm that abuses pigs
  3. The single state of North Carolina uses more antibiotics for livestock than the entire United States uses for humans.
  4. Breaking undercover investigation - an inside look into the nation's fourth largest pig factory farm. Pork from these abused animals is being sold by grocery giants Kroger, Costco, Safeway, and Hy-Vee.
  5. Tyson caught bribing meat inspectors
  6. Today's Onion: Just eat a goddamn vegetable
  7. TIL that India has more Vegetarians than there are people in the United States, and that the majority of others rarely eat meat anyway
  8. Factory Farming Is Manufacturing Superbugs -- and Endangering Us All
  9. Documentary: A River of Waste, exposes a huge health and environmental scandal in our modern industrial system of meat...some scientists have gone so far as to call the condemned current factory farm practices as "mini Chernobyls."
  10. For the First Time, the FDA Tracks Antibiotics in Our Meat

An interesting point is that all of these top 10 stories reflect meat production/consumption in a negative way. If you go down a bit you can find some pro-paleo-diet stuff though.

Something which might be remarkable is that these stories focus on "big corporations" being the problem - stories like "if you shove pounds of bacon in your face you'll have a heart attack" are not so highly voted. 17 of the 330 stories which mention meat in some context contained the word "factory" or "CAFO". They have an average score of 131, which is significant compared to the average meat story's score of 37 at p = .02 and significant vs. the average story's score of 53 at p=.08.

There were 32 stories containing the word "antibiotic" or "superbug" in the title. These 32 had an average score of 67. The distinction between these and normal meat stories is significant at p=.03, but not significant compared to all stories (p=.45).

Google trends for "superbug". You can see that interest is quite sporadic.

(The standard deviation of all stories is a very high 198, so consider that when examining significance.)

Something that will probably not surprise activists is that meat stories aren't as popular. Nonetheless, certain types of stories seem to do quite well.


Once an hour, I take a snapshot of the front pages of the environment, health, green and food2 subreddits using Reddit's awesome API. Because I only look at the front page, the vote information is slightly wrong (since stories continue to get votes after falling off the front page). I manually (and quite laboriously) mark ones which have to do with meat. I have been doing this for the past 6 or so months, albeit with a few interruptions due to technical difficulties.

The dataset consists of 24,417 stories, 330 of which relate to meat. It is in a rather rough form, but if you want a copy please let me know. If there is enough demand, I can try to post a cleaned-up version for public consumption. Update: by popular demand, the data can be found here. It's been a while, so the data isn't exactly what was discussed here, but it's close (and you can always remove newer stories to validate my results, if that's what you're checking).


It will probably come as no surprise that people are interested in saying bad things about CAFOs. It might be somewhat more surprising that antibiotics are such a hot-button issue.

Please keep in mind that the people who vote on these stories are self-selected to have been interested in health and/or the environment. As always, know your audience.

PS: When I look at who submits these stories, a few names keep coming up. You and me are hanging hard.


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  2. Since people seem to be most interested in hearing about the cruelties of factory farms and their use of antibiotics, here is a pamphlet that vegan advocates might find effective.