40% of US children think a hot dog is a vegetable, 47% think french fries come from an animal

A new survey found that a large number of younger school-age children do not understand where various foods actually come from.

The Journal of Environmental Psychology published a study entitled “Children are unsuspecting meat eaters: An opportunity to address climate change”. Highlights of the study included that many children are not able to identify food origins accurately, with 41% believing bacon originated from a plant. A large number of children don’t believe animals are appropriate to eat, which leads scientists to believe this could lead to a more normalized approach to meatless diets.

Children were better at identifying what a certain kind of food was than they were at understanding where it came from. No students were unable to identify certain animals and plants, like a horse, dog, grass, or orange. 

When asked to sort foods, at least 30% of children were unable to correctly sort any of the animal-based foods, except for milk. Thirty-six percent to 41% of children believed hamburgers, hot dogs, and bacon come from plants, and a third said chicken nuggets were plant-based. French fries were missed most commonly, with almost 47% believing they were animal-based. Other foods that were frequently misclassified were popcorn and almonds, with over 30% error rates.

In the abstract of the study, authors claimed, “Eating a plant-based diet is one of the most effective ways people can reduce their carbon footprint. However, global consumption of meat and other animal products is increasing.” The study mentioned that a 2018 study reported that the average person ate over 200 pounds of red meat and poultry annually, declaring that meat consumption is at an “all-time high”.

“Studying children’s beliefs about food may shed light on the relationship between eating behaviors and climate change,” the introduction read. “Here, we examined children’s knowledge of the plant and animal origins of foods, as well as children’s judgments of what can be eaten.”

Authors of the study said, “We purport that addressing children’s eating behaviors may offer a more effective approach compared to attempts aimed at modifying adults’ well-entrenched diets.” To do this, they began by talking to young American children to see what they understand about food coming from plants and food. They hope that the implications of the study will be that the younger generation will be more open to plant-based diets, which are reportedly better for the environment.




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