Can Environmental Labels Fight the Cattle Industry’s Impact on the Environment?

Tuhina Parida, Lipika Sahoo


The environmental impact of the cattle industry is severe. When considering land-use effects, its emissions per capita are comparable to the impact of energy usage (Ranganathan et al., 2016). Cattle farming produces 20 times higher emissions per gram of protein than plant protein (Waite et al., 2022). Previous research (such as Camilleri. et al., 2018) has indicated that people underestimate the carbon footprint of food items, especially red meat. There have been a few studies on the effectiveness of environmental labels, however, the results are mixed. This paper sheds light on the impact of environmental labels containing information on water consumption, land use, and the carbon footprint of meat vs. plant-based meat on consumers’ buying behavior. We create a survey and distribute it across three platforms—Amazon Mechanical Turk, Prolific, and students and staff at a high school in Massachusetts, USA. We receive a total of 260 responses. The results indicate that participants exposed to the environmental labels choose an average of between 0.61 and 1.1 more plant-based meat patty packages out of five packages than those not exposed to the labels. This emphasizes the effectiveness of environmental labels in influencing consumer choices towards more sustainable options.

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