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Americans are Not Making the Connection Between Food and Climate Change

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Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Unsplash - Katie Smith
A new report released by Earth Day Network and the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication found that  more than half of Americans willing to eat more plant-based foods, but the majority rarely discusses such issues and are demonstrably not making the connection between food and global warming.

The report, titled Change and the American Diet, showed that the vast majority (94%) of US consumers are willing to eat more fruit and vegetables, with six in ten (62%) saying they are “very” willing – however the issue appears to be a lack of information about the environmental impacts of their food choices.

  • 70% of the individuals surveyed rarely or never discuss this issue, with almost two-thirds reporting that they have never been asked to eat more plant-based foods, and more than half rarely or never hear about the topic in the media.
  • Significantly, even though the majority believe that the production of meat contributes at least “a little” to global warming, Americans do not comprehend the connection between food and global warming. Over half of the respondents said they think the production of beef, pork, dairy, and/or poultry contribute to global warming at least “a little”, but only about one in four Americans (27%) think that beef contributes “a lot”.
  • Only 17% of Americans think the production of dairy contributes “a lot” to global warming. More than four in ten Americans think that beef does not contribute to global warming at all (23%) or do not know (20%). Furthermore, 23% think that dairy products do not contribute to global warming at all and 23% do not know.

In addition to a lack of information, the perceived cost of vegan products hinders US consumers from trying more plant products. Half (49%) believe that a meal with a plant-based main course (fruit, vegetables, meat/dairy alternatives) is more expensive than a meat-based main course (beef, chicken, fish, etc.), while fewer think a plant-based main course is less expensive (14%). Over half (58%) said that plantbased foods are too expensive, but 63% would be willing to eat them in place of meat if the prices were lower than meat.

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