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Vegetarian main beats meat option in conference cuisine experiment

Organisers of an environmental conference in the US have discovered that eating meat is less about choice than habit, by making it the "vegetarian option" for once.

Posted : 19 November 2009

Turning traditional meat-centric table norms on their head, delegates at the third annual Behavior, Energy and Climate Change Conference (BECC), held in Washington DC on November 15-18, were served a vegetarian lunch. A meat-based meal was offered as an alternative to those who requested it.

Only 20 per cent of the 700 diners opted for a meat dish, with 80 per cent choosing to stay with the vegetarian main. At a prior BECC conference, where the default menu contained meat, only 17 per cent of attendees chose the vegetarian meal. When a meat-based starter is served, and a vegetarian alternative is on offer, typically only 5 to 10 per cent of people will request the veggie option.

Evidence, if any were needed, that it’s how the questions are phrased that is important – and perhaps that people are more willing to embrace a meat-free lifestyle than had been previously assumed.

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