By Alexandra Mae Jones
TORONTO (CTV Network) — Meat-eaters are more likely to select a vegetarian option over a meal containing meat when eating at a restaurant if the majority of choices on the menu are vegetarian, but not if the menu is half and half, according to a new study.
It may seem like common sense that the more vegetarian options there are, the more likely they would be picked, but researchers wanted to test this assumption in reality.
Conducted via an online survey, researchers out of the U.K. presented participants with three different hypothetical menus, one of which was 75 per cent vegetarian options, one with 50 per cent, and one with only 25 per cent vegetarian dishes.
They found that meat-eaters were three times more likely to choose a vegetarian meal when the menu was 75 per cent vegetarian compared to 50 per cent.
The findings were published online in the February 2022 issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of Environmental Psychology.
Beth Parkin, senior lecturer at the University of Westminister and one of the study’s authors, said in an article in The Conversation that shifting to adding vegetarian meals more often is one way people can change their behaviour to help cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.
According to a study published in the journal Nature Food in September, the entire system of food production is responsible for 35 per cent of all global emissions, and the production of animal-based foods produced twice as many emissions as plant-based food production.
The new study, which looked at menu choices, stated that it supports the idea that people can be incentivized to eat more vegetarian meals by simply shifting the menu, without needing large education campaigns to convince them.
A shift in menus and options at restaurants could change attitudes with low cost and effort, Parkin suggested, by signalling that vegetarian food is as normal as meals with meat, while also offering more variety.
The same researchers also ran a trial with the participants to see if the placement of symbols on a menu that denoted a meal as vegetarian — for example, a “V” next to the title of a dish — had any impact on the choices a customer made. They found that whether the vegetarian symbol is placed to the left or right of the dish’s name had no impact on whether the meal was chosen more often or not.
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