Seventy percent of American consumers rarely discuss the environmental impact of their food with friends or family, according to the results from a national survey released Thursday by Yale University.
The survey results are the foundation of a new report, titled “Climate Change and the American Diet,” which found that 51 percent of Americans surveyed said that they would eat a more climate-friendly, plant-based diets if they had more information about the environmental impacts of their food choices.
And, nearly two-thirds of the 1,043 U.S. adults surveyed report having never been asked to eat more plant-based foods, and more than half rarely or never hear about the topic in the media, said the report by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC) and the Earth Day Network (EDN).
However, the report found that more than half of Americans are willing to eat more vegetables and plant-based alternatives and/or less red meat. Additionally, consumers are already changing their diets and purchasing habits in favor of plant-based foods.
Although four percent of Americans self-identify as vegan or vegetarian, 20 percent choose plant-based dairy alternatives about two to five times a week or more often. Roughly the same percentage choose not to buy products from food companies that are not taking steps to reduce their environmental impact.
“Many American consumers are interested in eating a more healthy and climate-friendly diet,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, YPCCC director. “However, many simply don’t know yet which products are better or worse – a huge communication opportunity for food producers, distributors and sellers.”
Americans identified other barriers to eating more plant-based foods, including perceived cost, taste and accessibility. For example, 49 percent think a meal with a plant-based main course is more expensive than a meal with a meat-based main course.
The survey also showed that Americans would eat more plant-based foods if they cost less than meat options (63 percent) and if they tasted better (67 percent).
Barriers of cost and access, including distance from grocery stores and access to fresh produce, impact lower-income households in particular.
“This data is a wake-up call for the climate movement,” said Jillian Semaan, EDN’s food and environment director. “Animal agriculture is one of the major drivers of our climate crisis, we need to provide people with the relevant information that connects food choices, animal agriculture and climate change.”