Graphic health warnings of the kind seen on cigarette packets may help reduce meat consumption, and help the environment, according to new research.
Since 2008, cigarette packets have had warning labels such as "smoking kills" alongside graphic images illustrating smoking's effects on the body, a tactic that has helped reduce the number of smokers in the UK. Now, researchers say a similar approach could cut meat consumption.
In a study published in the academic journal Appetite, researchers found that graphic warning labels cut the selection of meals that included meat by 7-10% when they described the consequences of eating meat for health, the spread of disease and the climate.
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The study also found that participants "did not oppose" climate warning labels on meat, but were less supportive of labels which referred to the health and pandemic risk associated with meat consumption. It suggests that warning labels focusing on meat's impact on the planet could be the "most suitable" for a public awareness campaign, said study lead and PhD candidate Jack Hughes in The Conversation.
Recently released government data found that meat consumption at home in the UK is currently at its lowest level since records began in 1974, and down 14% since 2012. It is a trend that could be driven by "the cost-of-living crisis, the continued impact of Covid" as well as "broader lifestyle changes", said The Guardian.
The UK has set a target of reducing meat consumption by 30% by 2032 as part of its national food strategy. Dr Mike Clark, a senior research associate in food at the Oxford Smith School, told the newspaper that meeting the target would require "a doubling in the rate of meat reduction compared with the rate from the last 10 years".
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