Hot Planet

Oh Goody! Carbon Footprint Labeling on Food

Carbon TrustEvery problem is an opportunity. Right? So we’re not surprised that food industry innovators see an opportunity to exploit climate change to differentiate their brands. Quorn plans to put carbon footprint labeling on their meat substitute products. Maybe the planet is burning up. But you can feel good about eating mycoprotein that hurts the planet less than your neighbor’s Big Mac. Ha!

Quorn has been working with the Carbon Trust for years now to measure the carbon footprint of their brands. Thus, sticking a feel-good seal on their product was the inevitable next step.

Demanding a Mandate

It’s not just Quorn. Oatly – the maker of fake milk from oats – has begun labeling its products with carbon footprint info. Now consumers will know how much carbon they put into the atmosphere with each creamy glass of oat milk they drink. Maybe we can get little stickers for our oat milk lattes.

But that’s not all. The company started a petition in Germany to demand a requirement for carbon footprint labeling. Oatly’s Tobias Goj explains:

It is impossible to make sustainable decisions without access to information about what is sustainable. A law to label food with the climate footprint could have a big impact on the food industry.

More Labeling, More Better?

Maybe we can add an Environment Facts label to all food products. Educate the masses. Free them to consume responsibly. What could go wrong?

Fast Company likens this move to the low-fat marketing frenzy of the late 1980s. That didn’t work out too well. Low-fat cookies and cakes were a bridge too far. And then there’s the issue of information overload. One of the best strategies for dealing with bad news is to hide it in plain sight. A prime example is the recitation of an endless list of adverse effects for prescription drugs. Or turning “This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA” into meaningless gibberish with a lightning-fast recitation.

Consumers shut it out. Too much. Too loud. “Just give me whatever the guys in marketing are targeting for jerks like me,” said New Yorker cartoonist Robert Mankoff. It happens.

You can thank the Lancet Syndemic Commission.

Click here for more about carbon footprint labeling from Fast Company. For more about attention manipulation and information overload, click here.

Hot Planet, illustration by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / flickr

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January 16, 2020

2 Responses to “Oh Goody! Carbon Footprint Labeling on Food”

  1. January 17, 2020 at 2:06 pm, Mary-Jo said:

    This type of info is in early stages, but I’m keeping an open mind. People are very worried about climate change and often feel helpless. Perhaps this info will guide folks to make more wholesome choices, resulting in the win-win — better for carbon emissions, better for health. What will need to happen is for dietitians and nutritionists to, somehow study and document if people who choose according to carbon footprint, in fact, DO end up choosing more nutritious and health-promoting diets. Lots to think about and do to make sense of such info!

    • January 17, 2020 at 3:24 pm, Ted said:

      Count me in on the side of keeping an open mind, thinking it through, and taking action that will be effective. Let’s do it!