Climate Food Labels

The Lempert Report
January 11, 2023

Phil: Talking about labeling, there's a new report that came out of John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where they studied 5,000 participants who were shown a sample menu, a fast food menu to ask to choose and select a single item for dinner. And what they did is they had one group of people getting a menu, with a non red meat item, such as chicken labeled 'low Climate impact'. Another group received the menu with red meat items, burgers labeled high climate impact, and a third control group received menus with QR codes on all the items with no climate labels. And guess what, you know, menus with a high climate impact label on the burgers increased non beef choices by 23%. So what we know is if we can label things simply, and if we can label things clearly, we can affect change in the way people eat, and certainly for the climate as well. 

Sally: Yes. And this is a very interesting study. You know, we've looked at labeling studies before. We've looked at the impact of requiring calories on menus at restaurants, which I believe has been since 2018 in the United States. We've looked at those results, we've looked at traffic labeling, we've looked at labeling in other countries where they've printed how much exercise you need to burn off the calories from that food you're eating. And what I find most interesting about this labeling is how it affects the people that are making the products. You know? So while we may not make the best choice on our own, when we're buying things, we can hope that companies are creating food products for us, and especially in the big food world that they are looking at their products and how they affect our climate, and trying to reformulate in a way that we can feel better about buying those products. 

Phil: I just had this discussion last week where there's a major retailer here in the US who has now put 'good for you' labels on products. Schnooks in the St. Louis area. And what they're finding is companies are reformulating their products so that they can get the 'good for you' label. So to your point exactly, I mean, we can affect change. Let's not overthink it. Let's just make it simple for people to understand. And I think that people can come around.