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Graphic warning labels could reduce people’s meat consumption

November 2, 2023

A new study from the Department of Psychology at the University of Durham in the UK has found that cigarette-style graphic warning labels could reduce people’s meat consumption.

The research suggests the use of warning labels on meat options could improve public health and reduce the UK’s carbon footprint.

Its researchers tested three labels warning people of the damage to either climate, health, or risk of pandemics. They found that all labels were effective at discouraging people from choosing meals with meat.  

All warning labels, which showed a graphic image alongside text, reduced meat meal selections by 7-10%. However, people were most in favor of the climate warning labels which they also found the most credible.  

According to a recent YouGov poll, 72% of the UK population classify themselves as meat eaters. The independent Climate Change Committee, which advises the UK government, recommends a 20% reduction in meat and dairy consumption by 2030.  

A representative sample of 1,001 meat-eating adults were split into four groups which were shown pictures of hot meals you might buy in a canteen which contained either a health warning label, climate warning label, pandemic warning label, or no label.

They were asked to make 20 separate decisions on different meal choices and the team also asked how anxiety provoking and believable they found the labels.  

Future intentions to buy and eat the meal options, as well as how appealing the meals appeared, was measured. Participants also indicated how supportive they would be of the different labels if they were implemented as policy.

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