Enabling Tipping Dynamics in Food System Transformation: How Information and Experience with Novel Meat Substitutes Can Create Positive Political Feedbacks

92 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2021

See all articles by Lukas Paul Fesenfeld

Lukas Paul Fesenfeld

ETH Zürich; University of Bern - Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research

Maiken Maier

University of Bern - Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research

Nicoletta Brazzola

ETH Zürich

Niklas Stolz

ETH Zürich

Yixian Sun

University of Bath

Aya Kachi

University of Basel

Date Written: August 25, 2021

Abstract

The food system causes more than a third of the global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, of which half are from livestock. Shifting towards plant-based diets could significantly reduce deforestation, protect biodiversity, and contribute to achieving the Paris climate targets. Yet, deep-rooted eating habits, pleasure, cultural status symbols, and personal freedom are just a few of many bottlenecks to reduce meat consumption. Here, we argue that technological innovation in meat substitutes, if successfully combined with effective informational triggers for behavioral changes, can foster positive political feedbacks to transform the food system. We are particularly interested in assessing the effects of such triggers on accelerating people’s reduction of meat consumption and increasing public support for respective food policies. Using advanced machine learning and survey experiments with citizens (N= 2590) in China and the US, the globally largest meat markets, we find that personal experience with new plant-based meat substitutes strongly predicts individuals’ intentions to reduce their meat consumption, eat more substitutes, and support public policies that catalyze a transition to more plant-based diets. We also find that in both countries information about the benefits of plant-based diets can increase citizens’ behavioral change intentions and policy support. In China, emphasizing social norms in favor of plant-based diets has particularly strong effects on policy support. In the US, prior experience with innovative meat substitutes potentially can boost the positive effects of informational campaigns on public support for meat reduction policies. Overall, the results offer promising implications for a policy sequencing strategy to create positive political feedbacks and enable socio-technical tipping dynamics for food system transformation by fostering innovation in and experience with meat substitutes and highlighting the co-benefits of plant-based diets.

Keywords: Meat Substitute, Policy Feedback, Food System Transformation, Survey Experiment, Public Opinion

Suggested Citation

Fesenfeld, Lukas Paul and Maier, Maiken and Brazzola, Nicoletta and Stolz, Niklas and Sun, Yixian and Kachi, Aya, Enabling Tipping Dynamics in Food System Transformation: How Information and Experience with Novel Meat Substitutes Can Create Positive Political Feedbacks (August 25, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3911306 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3911306

Lukas Paul Fesenfeld (Contact Author)

ETH Zürich ( email )

Zürichbergstrasse 18
8092 Zurich, CH-1015
Switzerland

University of Bern - Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research ( email )

Zähringerstrasse 25
Bern, 3012
Switzerland

Maiken Maier

University of Bern - Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research ( email )

Zähringerstrasse 25
Bern, 3012
Switzerland

Nicoletta Brazzola

ETH Zürich ( email )

LEE G104
Leonhardstrasse 21
Zurich
Switzerland

Niklas Stolz

ETH Zürich ( email )

LEE G104
Leonhardstrasse 21
Zurich
Switzerland

Yixian Sun

University of Bath ( email )

Claverton Down
Bath, BA2 7AY
United Kingdom

Aya Kachi

University of Basel ( email )

Peter Merian-Weg 6
Basel, 4052
Switzerland

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