People eat 80% less meat when there are more vegetarian options on the menu

Researchers have found that re-menuing can dramatically affect people's dietary choices, encouraging them to eat less meat. According to research, the number of vegetarian and vegan options in the menu has doubled, reducing the number of meat orders to 80%. The overall sales of the restaurants did not affect the extra meat options.

A vegetarian burger served by the University Center's main dining hall in Cambridge. Credit: University of Cambridge.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge analyzed one year's worth of cafeteria sales data. In total, more than 94,000 meals were selected at three colleges in Cambridge.

Research has found that increasing the number of vegetarian options from 25% to 50% of menu items results in significantly more meat products. According to the results, the number of meat orders decreased from 40% to 80% without affecting cafeteria sales. Moreover, researchers have not found the so-called "discovery effect" document – suggesting that consumers who eat less meat may be compensated for more in the evening.

This is the first study investigating how menu refreshments can affect meat-free meals.

"Going on a plant-based diet is one of the most effective ways to reduce the ecological flow of food," said Emma Garnett, lead author of the study, a conservation and doctoral candidate from the Cambridge Department of Zoology.

"Some meat or fish may seem like a more vegetarian option, but as far as we know, no one has tried it before. Decisions that seem obvious do not always work, but it seems that way. ”

The findings are important in today’s climate emergencies. Livestock provides only 18% of all the calories we consume, but occupies 83% of all farms. Each pound of beef needs about 8,000 liters of water, and the equivalent amount of potatoes consumes less than a thousand times as much water. Even eggs need only a fifth of what a cow needs.

Aside from the environmental aspects, eating less animal protein is also better for your health, studies have shown that it increases longevity. A recent report by EAT-Lancet, widely published by experts from the International Group on Health, Agriculture and Sustainability, recommends consuming more than half an ounce of red meat a day.

Going vegetarian or vegetarian is not for everyone, consuming less meat – say every day – once a week – can have a huge impact on the environment.

“Flexitarism is on the rise. Our results show that food plants that serve more plants not only respond, but compensate for consumer demand, ”said Garnett.

"Simple changes, such as increasing the proportion of vegetarian options, can be usefully remedied to help mitigate climate change and reduce biodiversity," he said.

More and more people are aware of the need for more sustainable practices in global food production, with millennials responding the fastest.

Co-author Theresa Marto, a professor of behavior and health at Cambridge, said: “Education is important, but generally effective when changing diets. Meat taxes are unpopular. Changing the range of options available is more acceptable and offers a powerful way to influence the health and sustainability of our diets. ”

And where there is a pressing problem, the news will happen. One such innovation is plant-based meats, such as a growing food impossible burger, which relies on an ingredient derived from a genetically modified yeast in a product called heme – an iron-containing molecule. "While such meat-free alternatives are quite expensive today, recent research has shown that they will soon become cheaper than real meat as the industry grows.