The less meat is eaten, the lower the environmental impact and animal suffering. However, many people do not want to eat less meat. How could you still limit meat consumption – completely unnoticed?
More and more people are reducing their meat consumption
More and more people are vegetarian or vegan, in Germany alone there are said to be almost a million who have opted for a plant-based diet. The three main reasons for such a diet are health, environmental protection, and animal welfare.
The fact that a meatless diet is practiced for animal welfare does not need to be explained further. The harmful impact of meat production on the environment has long been known, so that meat-free or low-meat diets are considered to be significantly more environmentally friendly.
And when it comes to health, numerous studies now show how beneficial a vegetarian or vegan diet is for cardiovascular health, weight, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and also the risk of cancer.
Of course, there are still many people who find that a meal is incomplete without meat. How could one reduce meat consumption without giving meat lovers the impression that they have to do without anything?
Information is often not enough to bring about a change in behavior
Actually, you would think that most people would automatically eat less meat once they were given enough information about the disadvantages of eating meat.
However, a study published in October in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that simply educating people about the health and environmental benefits of eating less meat does not result in smaller portions of meat for most people.
Brain capacities are often not sufficient for conscious shopping
This may be due to the fact that very few people carefully weigh the pros and cons of each food item before making a purchase when shopping for groceries every day. Researchers believe that in most cases there is not enough brain capacity to be able to make rational decisions about every type of food.
So if you have to decide between a ham and a hummus sandwich, then the probability for the vast majority of people is low that they will make this decision on the basis of the climate report they have recently read. It’s much more likely that without much thought or consideration, they’ll just take what they’ve always bought, what the ads advise, or even what everyone else is taking.
In September 2018, researchers from the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Düsseldorf published a study examining different ways that consumers could reduce meat consumption without having to make a choice. Meat consumption could thus be reduced without consumers realizing it.
Smaller portion sizes for meat dishes or sausages
For example, if food manufacturers or restaurant operators imperceptibly reduced the portions of the usual meat products, this would significantly reduce meat consumption.
A matching study from 2017 showed that you can serve meat portions smaller by an average of 28 g without being noticed.
Another study found that meat consumption would drop by 13 percent if sausage makers reduced the size of their sausages accordingly.
Of course, this measure can also be implemented in the household. The family member responsible for shopping and preparing meals will serve smaller portions of meat and buy sausages that are slightly smaller than usual. Nobody has to do without the usual proportion of meat – and meat consumption can still be reduced overall.
Bring vegetables to the fore
It also depends very much on how easy it is for the restaurant guest to find plant-based menus on the menu. A study has shown that dishes are more likely to be chosen if they are further up the menu. On the other hand, even an exclusively vegetarian meal selection is hardly noticed if it is listed at the bottom of the menu.
However, if you write the meat dishes on a separate board and list only plant-based dishes on the menu, they are four times more likely to be chosen than a meat-based alternative, according to a 2012 study.
Position meat in the background
According to a study from 2018, if the vegetable dishes are lined up first and then the meat dishes in a canteen, canteen, or in a self-service restaurant, then the veggie dishes are also chosen more frequently. A small study showed that such a buffet arrangement can reduce meat consumption by up to 20 percent.
Remember the origin of meat and sausages
Reminding people where the meat on their plate comes from also leads to reduced meat consumption. In a 2018 study, researchers were able to show that people are more likely to look for a vegetable dish if, for example, the pig’s head is on display together with the roast pork.
Serve delicious meat-free recipes
Of course, you should only offer very tasty meat-free dishes and always present them in a particularly appetizing way. A 2012 study showed that twice as many people chose a meat-free dish if it was beautifully decorated and presented.
Of course, this measure can also be implemented in private households by putting a lot of effort into vegetable dishes.