An interesting experiment was conducted with fast food.
It is increasingly important to keep in mind the ecological footprint of various foodstuffs. Partly because we have to reduce the emission of various greenhouse gases due to climate change, and the transport of various raw materials also contributes to this. In addition, the production of various foods, especially meat, has an additional environmental burden, from the size of the agricultural land used to the amount of water used to the energy requirements.
The food supply expert we interviewed according to him, the latter, i.e. the ecological footprint of the raw materials, is the most important, but it doesn’t hurt to pay attention to keeping the supply chain of the given foods as short as possible. That is, if possible, choose locally produced vegetables and meat, and from the latter category, try to choose those produced with the least environmental impact, i.e. if possible, eat pork instead of beef, turkey instead, chicken instead, and fish instead.
This is fine as long as someone cooks at home, but the situation is more difficult if we eat it in a restaurant. Of course, the above rules of thumb also apply there, i.e., if possible, give preference to plant-based dishes and, if possible, ask which raw materials are sourced from the given restaurant. However, the restaurants themselves can also make sure that their guests choose dishes that are more environmentally friendly.
THE Science Daily reported on the latest study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in which fast-food meals were marked with labels similar to labels listing the ingredients of the food, elements drawing attention to the effect of the given food on the climate.
During the study, which involved interviewing more than 5,000 subjects, the subjects were shown pictures of foods that resembled fast food menus, indicating the size of the ecological footprint of each. In the experiment, the participants were divided into three groups: the members of one group were given a menu containing white meat, i.e. chicken sandwiches, which were labeled “low environmental impact”. Another group saw red meat hamburgers with a “high environmental impact” label, while a third, control group saw both menus, but instead of the labels, they had QR codes on them.
The results speak for themselves: foods with high and low environmental impact labels significantly influenced choices. In the case of hamburgers with a high ecological footprint, for example, the choice of red meat decreased by 23 percent compared to members of the control group.
These results suggest that menu labeling and environmental impact can be an effective strategy to drive people towards more sustainable food.
– pointed out assistant professor Julia Wolfson, the head of the research.
Specialists have long believed that similar labeling can help promote healthier and more sustainable foods. However, the research suggests that “low environmental impact” labels may be less effective or misleading because they may give the impression that these foods are healthier. However, labels indicating a high environmental impact have proven to be an effective tool in influencing elections.
There is a risk of overconsumption of items perceived to be healthier, so we need to choose labeling strategies that support both sustainable and healthy food choices
Julia Wolfson added.