Most Americans Are Willing To Incorporate More Plant-based Foods Into Their Meals. What’s Preventing Them?
Modern-day food production is one of the largest known contributors to the climate crisis. In fact, it generates up to 30% of known global emissions, mainly through the production of livestock.
If raising livestock for the production of meat and dairy is such a big problem, why don’t we simply switch to plant-based diets? This idea is much easier said than done.
A new study on climate change and the American diet from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication reports that Americans don’t seem to know much about the environmental impacts of their food. “More than half of Americans think that the production of beef, pork, dairy, and/or poultry contribute to global warming at least ‘a little,’” reports the study, published through the Earth Day Network earlier this year. About 65% of Americans “rarely” or “never” research the impacts of their diets on the environment and don’t often bring these ideas up with family and friends.
But what about people who are aware of how agriculture is contributing to climate change? What is stopping them from changing their food choices?
According to the study, over half of Americans are willing to incorporate more plant-based foods into their diets. But to do so, they need to overcome a variety of barriers, such as lack of access to plant-based foods, economics, flavor and, in some cases, the effort it takes to prepare plant-based foods.
In other words, “cost, taste, and convenience.”
Lower-income households in particular report barriers. One in five lower-income individuals say that they don’t have a grocery store or market nearby. Many of these individuals also report they lack access to fresh produce, do not have the funds to purchase plant-based foods, claim they don’t know what plant-based foods to buy, and have issues with the taste.
All told, about half of Americans think plant-based meals are more expensive than other meals, and 83% say that taste is “moderately important” when it comes to their food choices. In fact, 67% of Americans say they would have no problem eating more plant-based foods if they tasted better. Most of these Americans agree that a plant-based diet would be more adoptable if the food not only tasted better, but was cheaper, more accessible, and offered more variety.
Among the individuals who would consider eating more plant-based foods, 91% would do so for their health, 71% would be motivated by a desire to reduce the environmental impact of food companies, and 64% would make changes because reducing global warming is at least “moderately important.”
As the study points out, research shows that out of 80-some top strategies for reducing global warming, eating a plant-rich diet is in the top four, yet three out of 10 Americans are unaware of the benefits that can accrue from eating a plant-based diet. Although the study itself didn’t offer any potential solutions, it is clear that not only eating more plant-based foods, but also helping people recognize the positive impacts of eating more plant-based foods, could go a long way toward reducing the threat of climate change for generations to come.
Elise Bernstein is an undergraduate student pursuing a degree in environmental science, policy, and management with a focus in environmental education and communication. She is also pursuing a minor in public health, in hopes of making a positive impact on our Earth and its people through writing and communication.
This article was republished from Ensia.