It’s no secret that more and more American foodies have been flocking to plant-based diets in the past decade — or, at least, have been reducing how much meat they are consuming. And, while agricultural and food outlets seem to discuss those shifting preferences often, a survey from Yale University suggests that a large majority of people never talk about those kinds of diets or what the environmental impacts of their food are.
The report, titled “Climate Change and the American Diet,” found that 51 percent of Americans surveyed said that they would eat more plant-based foods if they had more information about the environmental impacts of their food choices. However, 70 percent rarely or never talk about this issue with friends or family. Nearly two-thirds of the Americans surveyed report having never been asked to eat more plant-based foods, and more than half rarely or never hear about the topic in the media.
The research was conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the Earth Day Network.
“Many American consumers are interested in eating a more healthy and climate-friendly diet,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. “However, many simply don’t know yet which products are better or worse — a huge communication opportunity for food producers, distributors and sellers.”
The 1,043 Americans surveyed identified several barriers to eating more plant-based foods, including perceived cost, taste, and accessibility. Barriers of cost and access, including distance from grocery stores and access to fresh produce, impact lower-income households in particular. Almost half of Americans believe a meal with a plant-based main course is more expensive than a meal with a meat-based main course.
Although four percent of Americans self-identify as vegan or vegetarian, 20 percent choose plant-based dairy alternatives about two to five times a week or more often. Roughly the same percentage choose not to buy products from food companies that are not taking steps to reduce their environmental impact.
The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication conducts research on public climate change knowledge, attitudes, policy preferences, and behavior, and on the underlying psychological, cultural, and political factors that influence them. It is based at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.