Each participant was randomly assigned to view only one of the three menus, with each food option clearly identified by a clickable photo when ordering. A menu has standard (climate neutral) QR codes below each food image. The second displayed red labels stating ‘high climate impact’ under dishes containing beef. A third menu had green labels stating “low climate impact” under dishes that did not include beef.

Compared to those who chose from a regular, unlabeled menu, 23.5% more people who ordered from the menu that listed the fewest green options made a “sustainable” food choice. For example, they stayed away from red meat, the production of which has a great impact on the climate. 10% more participants made more sustainable choices when looking at menus that featured the greenest foods available.


The researchers found that both high and low climate impact menu labels were effective in promoting more sustainable food choices compared to controls. The most effective label, however, was the one showing high climate impact on beef products.

Sustainability or climate change menu labels are relatively new and have not yet been implemented in fast-food restaurants. However, other types of labels, such as calorie labels, have been available in restaurants for some time. Other studies show that such labels influence food ordering decisions (1 Reliable Source
The Impact of Climate Change Menu Labels on Fast Food Ordering Choices Among US Adults

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The researchers also found that when people made more sustainable choices, they perceived them as healthier. This shows that a climate-friendly fast food label can be a win not only for the environment, but also for the waistline.

Again, none of the encouraging results were derived from ordering choices made in actual restaurants.

Environmental Impact of Animal-Based Food Production

Animal-based food production, driven primarily by beef production, is responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) and is an important modifiable contributor to climate change. Meat consumption in the United States, particularly red meat, consistently exceeds levels recommended under national dietary guidelines. Shifting current dietary patterns to more sustainable diets with less red meat consumed could reduce diet-related GHGEs by up to 55%. More environmentally sustainable diets containing less red meat may also have health benefits; evidence links red meat consumption to an increased risk of death, stroke, colon cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

Fast food restaurants are an important source of red meat in the US diet; on a typical day, more than one-third of US individuals consume fast food, which has been linked to numerous negative health outcomes. Therefore, fast food restaurants are an important environment for promoting more environmentally sustainable dietary choices. One strategy to encourage such choices is the use of sustainability labels on restaurant menus that indicate the climate impact of each menu item based on its associated GHGEs, or carbon footprint.

More research is needed to understand the most effective and feasible label designs and how such labels will influence food choices in real-world settings such as fast-food restaurants, other restaurants, grocery stores, and cafeterias.

When it comes to sustainability and climate compatibility, a better approach would be to focus on the food system rather than just one specific food item on the menu.


  1. The Impact of Climate Change Menu Labels on Fast Food Ordering Choices Among US Adults – (https:jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2799947)

Source: Medium

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