Plant-Based Menu Options

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A new way to help people go vegetarian: offer more veggies.

Meat taxes and outright bans haven’t put much of a dent in our meat consumption so far. It turns out, people don’t respond well when they think their meat is being attacked. But new research shows that offering people a plant-based reality with a few meat options might be the key to fighting this major source of greenhouse gasses.

The deets

New research published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity covers three studies–one in a school cafeteria, one in a workplace, and one online study–that tested what happened when participants were given a majority-meat menu vs. a majority-vegetarian menu. In the online study of 2,205 UK adults, the numbers were particularly dramatic: when three of four options were meat, 12% chose the vegetarian option. But flip that to make three of the four options veg and 48% chose to go green.

“We don’t want to be telling anyone what to do,” said Rachel Pechey from the University of Oxford, who led the study. “But we know that how our environment is shaped helps influence our decisions, so it can make more sustainable choices an easier choice for people.”

The food industry produces one-third of all human-made greenhouse gasses worldwide, and meat production contributes twice as much as the production of plant-based foods. Plus, red meat is pretty tough on human bodies. An increasing number of people are going veg, but climate scientists, researchers, activists, and (some) policymakers agree that more need to jump on the train to make any kind of difference. Making plant-based options the easier option might just be the key.

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