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STUDY: More Plant-Based Dining Options Increase Sales and Decrease Meat Consumption

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The study showed that making a greater portion of meals meat-free in public cafeterias, dining halls, and canteens may be an effective tool for reducing meat consumption through consumer choice.

OWEN ROGERS: ‘One line of conventional wisdom in the animal advocacy movement is that the more veg options are available, the more people are encouraged to buy them. The goal of this study was to determine whether an increase in the availability of vegetarian meals actually correlated with an increase in purchases. To do this, researchers observed and then experimented with dining halls at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.

Prior studies have determined that mere education about the issues is a weak predictor of behavioral change, and while taxing meat would have a significant effect, it’s a politically unpopular solution. Relatively little attention has been paid to what the researchers call “choice architecture:” the framework in which consumer choices are made. Increasing availability of vegetarian food may result in a decrease in meat consumption without relying on changes in consumer values or punitive taxes….

The researchers found that increasing vegetarian meal availability from 25% to 50% resulted in a 62% increase in sales in dining hall A, and by 79% in dining hall B. When 50% of meals were vegetarian, 40% of diners in A and 33% in hall B chose to forgo meat… The researchers then conducted an experiment on a third dining hall, C, during the autumn term of 2017. 44 lunchtimes were observed, with vegetarian meal availability ranging from 16% to 50%. They found that doubling vegetarian meal availability from 25% to 50% did result in a 41% increase in vegetarian meal sales, but that meal choice was also affected by price differentials, time of the week, and week of the term…

This study shows that simply offering more vegetarian meals can increase vegetarian meal consumption and decrease meat consumption. It’s much more feasible to gradually reduce meat consumption in otherwise-omnivorous people than to convert a massive portion of the population to veganism overnight. Making a greater portion of meals meat-free in public cafeterias, dining halls, and canteens may be an effective tool for reducing meat consumption through consumer choice’. SOURCE…

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