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Reducing meat portion sizes, providing meat alternatives or changing the features and positioning of products at point-of-purchase can help to reduce the amount of meat that people select or consume, finds research led by Oxford University published in Lancet Planetary Health.

Eating meat is linked with negative consequences for human health and the environment, yet changing people’s meat-eating behaviours remains a significant challenge.

Previous research shows that simply providing information about the benefits of eating less meat does not necessarily reduce the amount of meat that people consume. This might be because food choices are not only guided by an individual’s conscious evaluations of their pros and cons of eating something. The features of the settings where these choices are made (e.g. how products are positioned in a supermarket) can also have a powerful influence on what foods people choose to eat or buy.

To understand how shops or canteens might alter their sales environments to nudge shoppers to buy or consume less meat, the Oxford University-led team analysed data from 18 separate studies investigating the effects of 22 initiatives aiming to reduce meat consumption.

Commenting on the results, lead author Filippo Bianchi from Oxford University’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, said: “We found that reducing portion sizes of meat servings, freely providing meat-alternatives, or altering the sensory characteristics of meat and plant-based alternatives at point of purchase - such as including a pig’s head on an image of a roast pork dish – are all initiatives linked to reductions in the amount of meat that people select or consume.

“There was some data suggesting that re-positioning meat products to make them less prominent at point of purchase may also be effective, but more research is needed in this area.

“Interventions simply changing the name or description of meat products or plant-based alternatives at point-of-purchase were not found to have an impact on people’s food choices. However, you have to label these products somehow, so even small effects might be worthwhile.”

Some studies included in the analysis evaluated the effectiveness of price manipulations and of wider campaigns to reduce meat consumption, but there was not enough data to make firm conclusions on these approaches.

The research is funded by the Wellcome Trust and supported by the Medical Research Council, Oxford University’s Green Templeton College, and the National Institute for Health Research. 

Read more

Restructuring physical micro-environments to reduce the demand for meat: a systematic review and qualitative comparative analysis.
Filippo Bianchi, Emma Garnett, Claudia Dorsel, Paul Aveyard, Susan A Jebb.
The Lancet Planetary Health 2018


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