When it comes to influencing consumers, focusing on children is a long-term commitment, and whether the message has staying power or not is something of a gamble. However, early signs show that activist groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are getting their messages across to U.S. children.

What's more, they are having an impact on the kid's meat-eating habits. That's the word from research conducted by the National Pork Board.

NPB conducted four focus groups, each involving 10 children who ranged in age from 9 to 14 years old. The groups were geographically spread across the United States. NPB combined those efforts with an online survey, which involved 350 children who also fit into that age bracket.

The two projects asked kids about their familiarity with Web sites such as www.petakids.com; their views food consumption and vegetarianism; and their views about animal care.

As NPB reports, more than 50 percent of all the children had heard of "animal rights" groups. Among those who had heard of animal rights groups, nearly one-fourth said the organizations had influenced their meat-eating habits.

The research did reveal that the kids had only a low awareness of PETA. Only one-third of the surveyed children said they had heard of PETA or visited its Web site. Still, PETA has had a high impact on the kids' meat-eating habits. Among the children who said they were aware of PETA, one-third reported having seen a video concerning animal care or meat consumption. Fifty-three said the Web site or video had impacted their meat-eating habits.

"We're keeping a close eye on these activist groups and their messages," says Traci Rodemeyer, NPB's pork information manager.

It's not uncommon for children to experiment with lifestyle issues like vegetarianism without it becoming a long-term commitment. However, those experiences often influence their future mind set as they make adult purchasing decisions. 

Source: National Pork Board