Carole Bartoletto, who works with dining services at UCLA, sent me two items.
- A toolkit to encourage dining halls to promote choices of meals with lower carbon footprints.
- A research study: Increasing the Selection of Low-Carbon Footprint Entrées through the Addition of New Menu Items and a Social Marketing Campaign in University Dining.
I started with the research study.
Its title requires translation. Low-carbon footprint means plant-based. In this case, it means Impossible brand plant-based meat alternatives.
Their intervention succeeded in encouraging substitution of Impossible for beef, but had unintended consequences.
Although the intervention was followed by a decrease in sales of beef entrées and increase in sales of plant-based meat entrées, sales of other vegetarian entrées also decreased.
Students replaced vegetarian choices with Impossible burgers?
To their credit, the authors acknowledge the problem.
It is also worth discussing the nutritional differences between plant-based meat and other low-carbon footprint options. In general, lower-carbon foods (i.e., plant-based and sustainably-raised fish) tend to be healthier, but this is not always the case. Plant-based meat products such as Impossible™ are ultra-processed and relatively high in sodium and saturated fat. Consuming ultra-processed foods has been linked with higher calorie intake and weight gain (Hall et al., 2019).
The toolkit, in contrast, includes Impossible products but does not focus on them. It presents a variety of vegetarian and vegan options as low-carbon options with many illustrations of ways to present this information.
This could be useful, and maybe more useful, without the Impossible products, especially if the ultra-processed meal alternatives discourage choices of vegetarian options.
Take a look and see what you think.
Note: an educational intervention in Great Britain that also gave participants free plant-based meats found more of them sto be consumed, unsurprisingly.