- We knew kids are stupid, but come on.
Oh, the innocence of a child. Or stupidity. We’re really not sure which of those this story is an example of.
A recent study has found that American kids have absolutely no idea where food comes from. Not only do they not know whether food is animal- or plant-based, they think commonly eaten animals aren’t OK to eat.
The study, published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, is supposed to examine children’s attitudes towards plant-based diets. But, perhaps unintentionally, it really turned out to be a study of just how dumb kids are.
To begin, the researchers from Furman University showed 176 children, aged 4 to 7, pictures and asked them to identify what it depicts. Then, they gave them two sorting tasks.
In the first task, the children saw 13 pictures of food items, and they had to sort them based on whether they were animal- or plant-based. If the food was from an animal, they’d place the card into a plant-themed box — if it was from an animal, it’d go into a fur-covered box.
Similarly, in the second task the kids saw 14 pictures of plants and animals. If they thought it was alright to eat what they saw, they’d point at a model of a mouth. If not, they’d point at a trash can.
What Plant Do Steaks Come From?
It’s really not a difficult task, even for a 4-year-old child. But boy howdy, are these results not pretty.
Let’s start with the first task, or determining whether the food came from a plant or an animal. The kids performed the best when they saw an apple — only around 16% of the kids thought it came from an animal.
And it’s all downhill from there.
You’d imagine kids would at least know where eggs come from, but no. A bit under a third of the children thought eggs were plants.
About 36% of the kids thought hamburger patties were plant foods. Maybe we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say their parents only buy Impossible burgers.
More than a third of the kids thought chicken nuggets were plant-based — despite them having the word “chicken” right there in the name. Some 40% of the surveyed kids also thought hot dogs and bacon were vegetables.
But the worst offender was actually French fries. Nearly half, 46.5%, of the children they were animal-based.
Don’t Have a Cow, Man
But what about the second test, the one where they had to say whether it’s alright to eat certain things? Maybe they fared better there?
Not really, no. But only a bit over 1% of them thought dirt or sand were edible, so we suppose that has to count for something.
Only around or less than 5% of the children also thought horses, cats, or dogs are edible. Technically, they’re right, but at least most of them won’t take a bite out of the family dog.
But when it comes to the most commonly eaten animals in the U.S., it all falls apart. Roughly a third of the kids said fish aren’t OK to eat.
Moving on to farm animals, the results got even more animal-friendly. About 65% said chickens weren’t OK to eat, while 73% said the same about pigs and 76% about cows.
Clearly, American children are true friends to animals. Or, more likely, they don’t have the faintest idea of where meat comes from.
Why Are They So Dumb?
The researchers seem to agree with the latter interpretation. They say that even 6- and 7-year-olds didn’t seem to grasp the idea of animals as food.
As to why that is, they first of all point at parents.
“Many parents in the United States are reluctant to talk with their children about the origins of meat … Parents may deliberately withhold information about animal slaughter in an attempt to safeguard children’s innocence, viewing the realities of meat production as too gruesome,” the researchers write.
That said, they recognize that there may also be practical reasons. They note that parents may be concerned that children would refuse to eat meat if they knew how it’s produced.
But, the researchers also state that parent’s reluctance to talk about meat production probably isn’t the only culprit. As another reason, they propose that Western industrial food production systems confuse children.
“Meat products bear little resemblance to animals when they are offered for sale in most grocery stores … Hamburgers, bacon, and hotdogs are transformed in processes largely invisible to children, so that by the time they end up on a plate the connection between the food and the animal is abstract.”
The researchers also suggest that children are just… Well, kind of stupid.
A child’s mind simply doesn’t make the necessary connections between a food and its origin. According to the study simply telling kids that eggs come from chickens or bacon comes from pigs doesn’t really mean anything to them.
Manipulating Kids for the Planet
As potentially concerning as the results are, the researchers don’t see them as all bad. They might even help with the study’s original environmental agenda.
They suggest that children haven’t yet formed the common adult idea that humans are superior to animals. As such, they’re more likely to think that you shouldn’t eat cows, for example — they’re just cute and go moo.
If someone were to suggest to them at this point that a plant-based diet is better, they might just take that to heart.
“Childhood may … represent a unique window of opportunity during which lifelong plant-based diets can be more easily established, compared to later in life,” the researchers note.
It’s pretty much proven that reducing animal consumption would benefit the environment. But is it just as or does that sound more than a little brainwash-y?