There is a need of simplified guides to inspire consumers to reduce their meat consumption, writes Theogene Habumugisha.(Photo: Shutterstock / NTB)
How do we get people to eat less meat? We need a voice for ignored consumers
OPINION: Without a clear blueprint to engage consumers, addressing the challenges associated with high meat consumption will continue to be a dream that is discussed between the experts with little to no impact.
TheogeneHabumugishaPhD Candidate, Centre for International Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Bergen.
Why should we avoid binge eating especially when it comes to red and processed meat?
One of the greatest challenges of the 21st century is to feed sustainably the world’s growing population while mitigating climate change.
High meat consumption is one of the major factors contributing to climate change, global warming and the depletion of natural resources including agricultural land and fresh water. High meat consumption, especially of red and processed meat, also increase the risk of developing chronic diseases including cardiovascular diseases and colorectal cancer.
However, most of the world’s population continues to depend on red meat to get all the nutrients they need including protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.
As the world’s population continues to grow, this means that more meat will be needed in the future, whereas the capacity of the planet where the meat is produced remains limited. Abstaining from eating meat, or even eating less meat, is one of the solutions to address this global challenge.
However, the success of this strategy is very dependent on consumers’ engagement. Cutting back 50% of the current meat consumption could substantially reduce global CO2 emission and the risk of developing chronic diseases, according to the research conducted by Willett, Rockström (1) and colleagues
Where are we getting wrong?
Despite the important role of consumers in reducing meat consumption for sustainable future, very little has been done to engage them.
The sad truth is that the discussion on reducing meat consumption has mostly taken place at the experts’ level, between scientists, policy makers, and food dealers. Little effort has been made to involve the consumers, who are the end users.
This also goes against the increasing view that consumes should be considered as the primary stakeholders and the need to engage them in all stages of policy processes from design to implementation.
How should consumers be engaged?
The main question now is how should the consumers be actively engaged in reducing meat consumption?
Addressing this question does not require a hard rock science, but the only problem is that we are failing the basic. One does not need a hammer to kill a tiny insect, the same is true that the problem of consumers’ engagement. It can be solved by ensuring that all consumers have access to information and resources.
Specifically, there is a need of simplified guides to inspire consumers to reduce their meat consumption. These guides can vary in form, but it is important that they are in a simple format that is similar to food recipes or simple food guides. We need to show which type of foods, like meat, that consumers should avoid or reduce their consumption of, and which foods they should eat more frequently.