'Humanely Raised' Meat Tastes Better, But Not For The Reason You Think

It's your mind, not your mouth.
Assorted delicious grilled meat with vegetable over the coals on a barbecue
Assorted delicious grilled meat with vegetable over the coals on a barbecue

There’s one big reason meat from a “humane farm” tastes so good, and it has nothing to do with farms.

According to new research, merely being told that meat is produced humanely can make it taste completely different to us. In a study conducted at Northeastern University, people rated meat as looking, tasting and smelling better when they were told it was raised on a humane farm instead of a factory farm, even if that wasn’t true.

These results provide more evidence that simple descriptions can change the way we see ― and taste ― all sorts of foods.

For the study, researchers fed college students three kinds of meat samples: jerky, roast beef and ham. The meat in each sample group was all the same, but it came paired with varying descriptions. Some meat was labeled as “humanely raised” at a farm that “values animal welfare,” and other meat was “produced on a factory farm” where animals are “confined in pens.”

After reading and eating, students rated the taste. Meat described as “humanely raised” won out on every single tasting factor when compared to “factory farmed” meat, even thought the meat itself was exactly the same. Students ate less of the “factory farmed” jerky, and they reported “factory farmed” ham as tasting greasier, saltier and less fresh.

This matches what other research has already suggested: The way we label our food greatly impacts how we feel about it. For example, people rate wine as tasting better when they’re told it’s expensive, and higher prices can make us feel less guilty about overindulging at a buffet.

We can only imagine what would happen if we told ourselves that deep-fried Big Macs were nutritious.

The better choice for the environment, of course, is to go meatless. Cutting back on meat while eating more fruits and veggies could reduce greenhouse gas emissions, halt climate change and improve your health. Now THAT’S a story we’d all be happy to hear.