To incentivize consumers a reduce meat consumption help could come from indicating theenvironmental impact on the label or on the menus. Research conducted by American universities John Hopkins e Harvard highlighted the effectiveness of indicating the environmental impact of foods on the label for guide consumer choice.
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Why reduce meat consumption?
The reduction of the consumption of meat, in particular of Red meatremains one of the primary goals in the fight for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. According to estimates, the breeding of animals related to the production of meat for food is responsible up to 15% of total greenhouse gas emissions. A large part of the agricultural land is also intended to produce i feed necessary for animals by reducing the amount of land that can be used for crops for direct human consumption. According to the researchers, the indication of the environmental impact on the label could help policies aimed at a global change of diet and a reduction in the consumption of red meat.
The study: environmental impact on the label
The study published online this December in the journal JAMA Network Openinvolved over 5,000 American citizens who were shown fast food menus. Participants were asked to choose a single course for dinner. The menus indicated the environmental impact on the label of food: for one group the menu only had chicken dishes and vegetarian dishes such as “low environmental impact” while for another group it was only red meat that was labeled as “high environmental impact”. A third control group, on the other hand, had received a traditional menu without any indication of the environmental impact on the label.
Reduced consumption of meat thanks to the label
The results showed that in both cases in which the environmental impact of food was indicated on the label, one was obtained statistically significant reduction in consumption of meat compared to the control group. However, the reduction underwent considerable variations according to the type of menu. For the “encouraging” menus that indicated only “low environmental impact” foods, a reduction in meat consumption was obtained 10%. On the other hand, the menus that aimed at discouraging the choice by indicating red meats as “high environmental impact” proved to be more effective. In this case, the reduction in consumption has arrived al 23% compared to the control group.
Environmental impact on the label: an effective tool?
According to the lead author of the study, Professor Julia Wolfson the results suggest that the indication of the environmental impact on the label: “May it be an effective strategy to encourage more sustainable food choices in an environment like a fast food restaurant”. Still according to the authors, although on the whole encouraging, the labels that encourage the choice of low-impact foods would be, on the whole, less effective in directing the choice rather than those aimed at discouraging the most impactful choices. Future goal of the researchers to verify the effectiveness of this type of labels in a real environmentoutside the laboratory.