Climate Impact Labels Could Help People Eat Less Red Meat | food

featured image

Climate impact labels on foods like red meat are an effective way to stop people choosing options that negatively affect the planet, a study has found.

Policymakers debate how to get people to make lower-carbon food choices. In April, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report urged world leaders, especially those in developed countries, to support a transition to sustainable, healthy, low-emissions diets.

In the UK, Henry Dimbleby, the government’s food czar, recently said that it was politically impossible for a government to tell people to stop eating so much meat. Around 85% of farmland in England is used as pasture for animals such as cows or to grow food which is then fed to livestock. Dimbleby believes a 30% meat reduction over 10 years is necessary for land to be used sustainably in England, while Greenpeace advocates a 70% reduction.

The clinical trial, published in the journal Jama Network Open, found that consumers respond well to climate labeling on their food.

Participants in the study, which used a nationally representative sample of adults in the United States, were shown a fast food menu and asked to select an item they would like to order for dinner. Participants were randomized to view menus with one of three labels: a quick response code label on all items (control group); low climate impact green label on chicken, fish or vegetarian items (positive framework); or high climate impact red label on red meat items (negative framing).

The Low Weather Impact Conditions menu stated: “This item is environmentally sustainable. It has low greenhouse gas emissions and a low contribution to climate change.” The high-impact weather conditions menu read: “This item is not environmentally sustainable. It has high greenhouse gas emissions and a high contribution to climate change.”

Compared with control group participants, 23.5% more participants selected a sustainable menu item when menus displayed high climate impact labels, and 9.9% more participants selected a sustainable menu item when menus displayed eco-friendly labels. low climate impact. Under experimental conditions, participants who selected a sustainable item rated their order as healthier than those who selected an unsustainable item, based on an average perceived health score.

Some might disagree with this labeling; Intensively produced chicken is harmful to the environment, as are some farmed and trawled fish.

Study authors, from Johns Hopkins and Harvard Universities, said: “Animal food production, driven primarily by beef production, is responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions and is a major contributor to global warming. modifiable contributor to climate change.

“In the United States, meat consumption, particularly red meat consumption, consistently exceeds recommended levels based on national dietary guidelines. Changing current eating patterns to more sustainable diets with lower amounts of red meat consumed could reduce diet-related greenhouse gas emissions by up to 55%.”

They found that telling people that a type of food had negative environmental impacts was more effective than informing them that a food was a more sustainable choice.

The authors said, “We found that labeling red meat items with negatively framed high climate impact red labels was more effective in increasing sustainable selections than labeling non-red meat items with positively framed low climate impact green labels.”