A study at Durham University in northern England suggests that putting a warning label on foods containing meat could persuade some consumers to choose a different form of sustenance.
Much like warning labels on the side of packs of cigarettes, the researchers believe that similar types of warning labels on food packaging could reduce the consumption of meat by 7% to 10%, a small but significant difference, especially when it comes to human health and the health of the planet.
The researchers split 1,001 adults, all of whom eat meat, into four groups and showed each group pictures of various meals, including hot meat, fish, vegetarian, and vegan selections. The pictures contained either a health warning, a climate warning, a pandemic warning, or no label.
Although the pandemic warning was the most effective at prompting participants to choose a different meal, at 10%, the participants considered the climate warnings as the most credible, despite convincing only 7.4% to choose a different option.
It’s not much, but it’s a step in the right direction. The production of meat, like feed for livestock and the gases emitted by livestock, contributes to pollutants in the atmosphere. A recent study showed that nearly 15% of harmful gases like carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide come from livestock farming.
While the study showed that a warning label makes a difference of 7% to 10%, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) in the U.K. says that meat consumption will have to be reduced by 50% if the U.K. hopes to meet its goal of reaching net zero by 2050.
Jack Hughes, a Ph.D. candidate who led the study, believes there are multiple reasons why we as a society should cut back on our meat consumption.
Hughes said, “When you combine that [CCC advice] with the fact that high meat intake is linked to lots of health issues, and the way that we currently farm, or certainly some of the most common ways of farming, are also very heavily linked to the potential of pandemic outbreaks, it becomes clear that there are multiple reasons why the current way that we eat meat is maybe not the best way to do it.”
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