- Increasing the proportion of vegetarian options in cafeterias led to a significant decrease in meat intake, as observed in a study of over 94,000 college cafeteria selections.
- A shift towards a more plant-centric diet is an effective way to lessen the environmental impact of food production.
- Variety in vegetarian meal options was appreciated at all mealtimes, and not compensated later with meat-heavy meals.
- The growing trend of ‘Flexitarianism’ promotes plant-based foods while allowing occasional meat and animal products. Moreover, caterers offering more plant-based dishes are influencing customer preferences.
- Simply increasing the ratio of vegetarian to meat choices can contribute to climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation.
Providing more vegetarian alternatives in educational cafeterias significantly decreases meat intake without negatively affecting overall sales, according to British researchers.
Impact of Expanded Vegetarian Choices
In an extensive study of over 94,000 college cafeteria selections, the proportion of vegetarian options was doubled (from 1 in 4 choices to 2 in 4). This led to a 40-80% drop in the purchasing of meat-rich meals.
“Introducing more vegetarian substitutes in place of some meat or fish dishes may seem like a predictable solution, but, as far as we are aware, it hadn’t been experimentally confirmed,” stated head investigator Emma Garnett, a conservationist at the University of Cambridge in the UK. “Not all apparent solutions have the desired effect, but it would seem that this one indeed does.”
Vegetarianism and Environmental Impact
Garnett highlighted that opting for a more plant-centric diet is among the most effective methods to lessen the environmental footprint of food production.
When a wider range of vegetarian choices was introduced, these dishes were favored at every mealtime. Interestingly, meat eaters who chose vegetarian meals for lunch did not compensate by opting for an all-meat dinner, the researchers noted.
The Rise of Flexitarianism
For far too long, vegetarian options have been sidelined on menus, Garnett pointed out. She referred to a growing trend in eating habits – ‘Flexitarianism’. This style emphasizes plant-based foods while permitting occasional meat and animal products. “Our findings suggest that caterers who serve more plant-based dishes are not merely reacting to, but actually influencing customer preferences.”
Simply increasing the ratio of vegetarian to meat choices could be effectively scaled up, contributing to climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation, suggested Garnett.
The study findings were revealed on Sept. 30 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Finding Out More About Plant-Based Eating
For further information on vegetarian eating, you may check out this link to Harvard University Medical School.