These subtle ‘nudges’ can help push people away from meat and toward plant-based substitutes.
We need to eat less meat. As the global population explodes, pressure mounts on the food production system, and animal agriculture drives environmental degradation, that’s a no-brainer. But, as we know from personal experience, humans are weak creatures. Food choices are driven by a primitive “Homer Simpson-like” brain that caves to cravings, rather than logic. In other words, when a tasty hamburger appears in front of us, we’re more likely to think about how delicious it would taste than the acres of deforested Amazon it represents.
Can something be done about this? One group of scientists has put forward some suggestions. In a study titled, “Restructuring physical micro-environmental to reduce the demand for meat,” published earlier this fall, Filippo Bianchi of Oxford University and his colleagues offer some ways to reduce the average diner’s meat consumption. These are subtle yet effective approaches, outlined originally in an article for The Conversation.
1. Reduce portion size
Running counter to the American tendency to supersize everything, this strategy relies on restaurants and grocery stores to offer smaller default portions of meat, whether it’s a main course or prepackaged meats for sale.
2. Design greener menus
We know that creative ‘nudges’ can help people to make healthier food choices, but this same philosophy can be applied to pushing vegetarian meals. Bianchi wrote,
“Displaying the meat options on a separate restaurant board and only keeping plant-based options on the default paper menu made people four times more likely to go with a meat-free option, according to a study conducted in a simulated canteen.”
If that’s not possible, then mixing the plant-based options in with the meat ones on a menu is still better than separating them out and putting them at the end, which reduces likelihood of consumption.
3. Make meat harder to see.
Physical positioning does a lot. When meat is placed at the end of a buffet spread, after people have loaded up their plates with salads, soup, and vegetables, their meat intake is reduced up to 20 percent.
4. Show where meat comes from.
When meat is pictured as the animal it once was, it turns people off from eating it. “Research shows, for example, that presenting the image of a pork roast with the pig’s head still attached increases people’s demand for a plant-based alternative.”
5. Make the vegetarian options delicious.
It’s logical. The tastier it is, the more people will want to eat it. One thing I’d add is that developing hearty vegetarian fare is important, because meatless options are often limited to soups, salads, and wraps – not always enough to fill a ravenous person.
See the original article in The Conversation.