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A new study has discovered a powerful force that is now driving evolution on Earth.

40% of American children believe hot dogs and bacon are plants.

According to a new study, many 4 to 7-year-old youngsters in the United States believe hotdogs, hamburgers, and bacon are made from plants.

A team of psychologists asked youngsters to categorise a variety of items, including cheese, french fries, bacon, popcorn, shrimp, almonds, and egg, in a study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. The results revealed a variety of shocks, including the fact that 47 per cent of the 176 participants thought french fries were made from animals.

Cheese was frequently misdiagnosed as plant-based, with 44 per cent identifying its origin inaccurately. 41 per cent thought bacon was produced in a factory, and 40 per cent thought hot dogs were produced in a factory. Even chicken nuggets, famous for having the word "chicken" in their name, were misdiagnosed as coming from plants 38% of the time.

Popcorn and almonds were also often mislabeled [as animal-based] by more than 30% of youngsters.

In addition to measuring the children's knowledge of food sources, the researchers investigated which animals and plants the children felt could and could not be eaten. There appears to be a lot of misunderstanding regarding what is and isn't edible, with the majority believing that cows (77 per cent), pigs (73 per cent), and poultry (65 per cent) are all inedible. Sand was deemed edible by 1% of those polled, which was five times lower than the percentage who thought cat was a form of food.

The study found that there are many misunderstandings about eating at this young age – but the researchers feel this may be an opportunity.

Most youngsters in the United States consume animal products, but children appear to be naive meat consumers, unlike adults who have developed a repertoire of justifications for animal eating. According to the current study, toddlers eat meat inadvertently, maybe in violation of prejudice towards animals as a food source. Childhood may thus constitute a unique window of opportunity for establishing lifelong plant-based diets more easily than later in life.

The team believes that part of the lack of awareness is due to parents hiding information about where meat originates from because they believe it is too nasty for children to understand at such a young age.

Rather than dealing with the inconvenience of cooking multiple meal options or confronting the emotions that may arise from learning that the bacon on their child's plate was once a living, breathing pig, some parents choose to avoid the truth entirely by using vague terminology that may have long-term consequences for their children's eating habits.

The team argues that by being more upfront about the source of foods (for example, explaining to kids how the sausage is created) and giving more meat alternatives, children will naturally gravitate toward plant-based diets.

Youth climate action may begin at the dinner table at the family level.

Children would be acting in accordance with their moral views of the environment if they refrain from consuming items that contravene their ideas about the well-being of animals. Children's moral eating habits may influence those of their parents, in addition to lowering their own carbon footprints.

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