In an effort to see whether people could be drawn to vegetarian dishes in order to help curb environmental harm from excessive consumption of animal products, researchers experimented with customers at two Cambridge University College canteens. They wanted to find out whether the position of the vegetarian meal had an impact upon its selection by students and other canteen users.
They found that placing the vegetarian meal in front of a meat dish did little to encourage its purchase. However, when the vegetarian meal was moved at least 1.81 metres away (6 feet) from the meat dish, sales of the vegetarian dishes rose by 40 percent. It’s the first research of its kind and the researchers collected data from 105,143 meal selections over a two-year period.
The researchers had expected to see people selecting the vegetarian dish if it was put in front of the meat dishes, but it didn’t work. It obviously requires a gap of 6 feet at least. When that gap is reduced to 67 centimetres or .67 of a metre sales dropped to less than when the vegetarian dish was behind the meat dishes. They believe that the additional effort to find meat dishes draws people to accepting the veggie option.
The results of the study encourages further research to see whether people’s habits can be altered in the interests of protecting the environment.