International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food

College Student Literacy of Food Animal Slaughter in the United States

International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food

Volume 24, issue 2 (2018), pages 215–228

Authors: Corey L. Wrenn
Affiliation: Department of Political Science and Sociology, Monmouth University, West Long Branch, NJ, USA

ISSN: 0798-1759


Despite the growing influence of food justice and conscious consumption in Western society, Westerners exhibit limited knowledge of non-human animal oppression in the food system. This study asked students in seven classes of Introduction to Sociology offered in a private New Jersey university to estimate how many non-human animals are killed for food every year in the United States. Although students had been exposed to reading and lecture material covering speciesism and non-human animal oppression in the food system, results demonstrate major variation in student retention and awareness. Most students (66%) severely underestimated the magnitude of killing; the median response was just 65 million while the bottom 10% of responses averaged a guess of 24 667. Exam grade was slightly correlated with student responses, but gender was not. These findings support existing research on consumer ignorance and social psychological theories that predict cognitive barriers to understanding large-scale suffering, alerting educators and policymakers to the difficulties in raising food literacy.

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