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Yale study tests American perspectives on food & environment

Research from Yale University says more than half of Americans are willing to eat more plant-based foods, but 4 in 10 still don’t see how plant-based diets reduce environmental impacts. Locally, meat lovers, produce fans, a rancher and grocers offered differing perspectives about the issue.

Globally, changes to food production and consumption are critical to reducing global warming and other environmental impacts, according to the study, which was published Feb. 13. Overall, Americans seem willing to switch to more vegetables, fruit and plant-based meat and dairy alternatives – as long as cost, convenience and taste aren’t an issue.

“Many American consumers are interested in eating a more healthy and climate-friendly diet,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. “However, many simply don’t know yet which products are better or worse – a huge communication opportunity for food producers, distributors and sellers.”

Researchers from the Yale program and the Earth Day Network conducted the nationally representative survey of 1,043 people in a study called “Climate Change and the American Diet.” The Earth Day Network, an environmental advocacy non-profit, funded the study. The Yale program is part of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

First, food production is among the leading sources of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, the study says.

Food production generates 9% to 30% of total global greenhouse gas emissions, although the percentage varies depending on how emissions are measured, according to several research articles and the Environmental Protection Agency.

It is also a significant contributor to biodiversity loss, deforestation, freshwater use and land-use change, the study said.

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