Could Climate Impact Data Be Coming to a Fast Food Menu Near You?

Calorie information wasn't always on there

Fast Food Menu
Calorie information is often found on fast food menus.
Benedikt von Imhoff/picture alliance via Getty Images

When you eat at a fast food or chain restaurant nowadays, you can expect to see calorie information on most menus. And while calories aren’t the only measure of how healthy or unhealthy a meal is, these guidelines can still be useful when deciding what to order. This information also brings to mind several other questions — including whether or not other information might also have an effect on what diners ordered.

A recent study sought to explore the impact of adding climate impact data to menus. (For instance, the connections between cattle farming and climate change have been written about frequently.) A new study, recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, set out to investigate whether having this information on hand might make people more likely to choose more sustainable food options.

The study was conducted using an online survey, in which over 5,000 adults in the United States were asked to choose a fast food item. When labels pointing to the environmental impact of specific dishes were present, more people opted to select “a sustainable (ie, non–red meat) item.”

Julia Wolfson of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who was the study’s lead author, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the importance of “minor shifts to the way we make our food choices.”

“So the question is, how do we nudge those choices in that direction?” Wolfson said in an interview with the Times. This study seems like a step towards making the case for such labels — and, as the Times article points out, at least one restaurant chain already highlights menu options with a lower carbon footprint. And with this study complete, it doesn’t seem implausible that information like this could become more widely shared — either voluntarily or through legislation.


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