Nudging meat off the menu

How do you convince people to break the habit of a lifetime?

how to get people to stop eating meat

To keep global heating below 2°C, the world's appetite for meat must change.


This will mean reducing meat consumption in most developed countries and limiting the increase in developing countries. But how do you convince people to break the habit of a lifetime?

Our recent paper, published in the journal Appetite, looked at how “nudging" might help. This is an approach from behavioural psychology that aims to subtly change a person's behaviour. In the same way a gentle nudge on the shoulder might alert you to something nearby, subliminal nudges in advertising or on signs help to affect the subconscious choices people make. To change a person's diet, nudges could help them choose meat substitutes over the real thing.

It's possible for people to still enjoy the taste of meat with alternatives – varieties of insects are high in protein, and their environmental impact is minimal. About 2 billion people already eat insects as part of their daily diet. But given that many people associate insects with dirt and disease, it's not guaranteed that bugs will make the cut as a major source of protein in the future.

But plant-based meat substitutes are surging in popularity in many developed countries. There is now a range of plant-based products that attempt to mimic the texture and taste of a variety of meats using ingredients such as soy or peas. The market share of these products has grown significantly in recent years – and the market is projected to expand by 28% per year until 2030. Our recent study found that people who regularly work out and opt for high-protein diets are particularly interested in alternative sources that can deliver the same benefits as meat.

Despite this growth in plant-based substitutes, meat consumption is still predicted to rise around the world. So alternatives are not enough – behaviour has to change.

will insects replace larger animal-based proteins

The face of protein in the 21st century?

Nudge, nudge

Nudging people away from meat could include changing the layout of places where food is bought or eaten, or designing menus so that vegetarian options are given equal or greater prominence than meat dishes.

But the complexity of food choice means that these may not be as effective outside experiments. In the real world, what people choose to eat is driven by a whole host of factors including the smell or texture of food and cultural norms.

Nudges tend to work by targeting unconscious thoughts and behaviours. Many of our food choices tend to rely on this, through habit or convenience. You're more likely to pick the option you've tried before and enjoyed, or that you know is easy to prepare, without carefully thinking about it. People remain reluctant to buy food that their partners or children may reject. So attitudes to meat and plant-based substitutes still need addressing to alter eating behaviour.

One area that shows particular promise is targeting people at specific stages in their lives. We found that older people would still want to eat foods which they had eaten as children. If children are given access to more plant-based proteins – and educated on their benefits for health and the environment – they might remain a valued component of their diet throughout their lives.

There are reasons to be optimistic that the dietary changes needed to limit global heating are achievable. Attitudes towards meat consumption are already changing, and there are plenty of options to try and encourage more people to pursue a diet that's better for them and the planet.The Conversation

David McBey, Project Co-ordinator and Sociologist, University of Aberdeen and Alex Johnstone, Personal Chair in Nutrition, The Rowett Institute, University of Aberdeen.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Every star we can see, including our sun, was born in one of these violent clouds.

Credit: NASA / ESA via Getty Images
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This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

An international team of astronomers has conducted the biggest survey of stellar nurseries to date, charting more than 100,000 star-birthing regions across our corner of the universe.

Stellar nurseries: Outer space is filled with clouds of dust and gas called nebulae. In some of these nebulae, gravity will pull the dust and gas into clumps that eventually get so big, they collapse on themselves — and a star is born.

These star-birthing nebulae are known as stellar nurseries.

The challenge: Stars are a key part of the universe — they lead to the formation of planets and produce the elements needed to create life as we know it. A better understanding of stars, then, means a better understanding of the universe — but there's still a lot we don't know about star formation.

This is partly because it's hard to see what's going on in stellar nurseries — the clouds of dust obscure optical telescopes' view — and also because there are just so many of them that it's hard to know what the average nursery is like.

The survey: The astronomers conducted their survey of stellar nurseries using the massive ALMA telescope array in Chile. Because ALMA is a radio telescope, it captures the radio waves emanating from celestial objects, rather than the light.

"The new thing ... is that we can use ALMA to take pictures of many galaxies, and these pictures are as sharp and detailed as those taken by optical telescopes," Jiayi Sun, an Ohio State University (OSU) researcher, said in a press release.

"This just hasn't been possible before."

Over the course of the five-year survey, the group was able to chart more than 100,000 stellar nurseries across more than 90 nearby galaxies, expanding the amount of available data on the celestial objects tenfold, according to OSU researcher Adam Leroy.

New insights: The survey is already yielding new insights into stellar nurseries, including the fact that they appear to be more diverse than previously thought.

"For a long time, conventional wisdom among astronomers was that all stellar nurseries looked more or less the same," Sun said. "But with this survey we can see that this is really not the case."

"While there are some similarities, the nature and appearance of these nurseries change within and among galaxies," he continued, "just like cities or trees may vary in important ways as you go from place to place across the world."

Astronomers have also learned from the survey that stellar nurseries aren't particularly efficient at producing stars and tend to live for only 10 to 30 million years, which isn't very long on a universal scale.

Looking ahead: Data from the survey is now publicly available, so expect to see other researchers using it to make their own observations about stellar nurseries in the future.

"We have an incredible dataset here that will continue to be useful," Leroy said. "This is really a new view of galaxies and we expect to be learning from it for years to come."

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https://www.freethink.com/shows/just-might-work

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