Climate impact labels on foods like red meat are an effective way to get people to stop making choices that negatively impact the planet, according to a study.
Policymakers have been debating how to get people to choose lower carbon foods. In April, the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) urged world leadersespecially in developed countries, to support a transition towards sustainable, healthy and low-emission diets.
In the UK, Henry Dimbleby, the government’s food czar, recently He said it was politically impossible for a government to tell people to stop eating so much meat. Around 85% of agricultural land in England is used as pasture for animals such as cows or to grow food that is then fed to livestock. Dimbleby believes a 30% reduction in meat over 10 years is required for land to be used sustainably in England, while Greenpeace advocates a 70% reduction.
The clinical trial, published in Jama Network Open magazinefound that consumers respond well to climate labeling on their food.
Participants in the study, which used a nationally representative sample of adults in the US, were shown a fast food menu and asked to select an item they would like to order for dinner. Participants were randomly assigned to view menus with one of three labels: a quick response code label on all items (control group); green low climate impact label on chicken, fish or vegetarian products (positive framing); o High climate impact red label on red meat items (negative framework).
The low climate impact conditions menu stated: “This item is environmentally sustainable. It has low greenhouse gas emissions and a low contribution to climate change.” The high climate impact conditions menu stated: “This item is not environmentally sustainable. It has high greenhouse gas emissions and a high contribution to climate change.”
Compared to 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 high climate impact labels. menus displayed low climate impact labels. Under experimental conditions, participants who selected a sustainable item rated their order as healthier than those who selected a non-sustainable item, based on a mean perceived wholesomeness score.
The study authors, from Johns Hopkins and Harvard universities, said: “Animal-based food production, driven primarily by beef production, is responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. and is a major modifiable contributor to climate change.
“In the United States, meat consumption, particularly red meat consumption, consistently exceeds the levels recommended under the national dietary guidelines. Shifting current dietary patterns toward more sustainable diets with less red meat consumption 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 telling people that a food was a more sustainable choice.
The authors said: “We found that labeling red meat items with negatively framed red high climate impact labels was more effective in increasing sustainable selections than labeling non-red meat items with positively framed green low climate impact labels.”