A Chicago study Ethics on the Go, conducted as part of Culinary Visions Panel‘s Mindful Dining Initiative project, reports some interesting findings about the way people are increasingly viewing food.

The study suggested that those younger than 35 pay the closest attention to “responsible practice” behind menus (although it is unclear what ‘responsible’ means, since this term is rather subjective), with consumers in the 18-34 demographic valuing ethical eating choices the highest.

The report claims that nearly all consumers have a “deep interest” in the production of their meals.

The results were rather interesting, for example, 60% of those under 35 thought organic foods tasted better; on top of this, while 62% of consumers consider themselves an “advocate for responsibly produced foods” 68% of the under 35s categorized themselves as “advocates for ethical eating.”

Ironically though, 82% of the consumers said that they ‘loved meat’ and 67% care about “ordering protein that is sustainably raised or caught” – casting doubt on how ethical these food choices can be.

It seems perhaps that it is not ethics that are a prime concern, but ‘trend’ – 71% of the under 35s reported liking ‘trendy establishments’ which they associate with ethical practices. However, if these establishments are predominantly serving animal products, arguably then, ethics cannot be the main appeal.

Convenience, to the contrary, seems to be a huge factor, possibly explaining why people are opting for meat. 56% the under 35s said that getting their food quickly is the most important factor in meal decisions.

However, there is hope that consumers may opt for a vegan way of life. 88% of consumers would like to add more plants to their diets, and an impressive 82% stated they wish establishments would use more environmentally friendly business practices. For instance,  65% raised concerns about the environmental impact of take-out containers and to-go packaging.

Sharon Olson, the Executive Director of Culinary Visions Panel, said“[w]hether it’s the environmental impact of making a food product or the company’s labor practices, consumers are rewarding establishments that can successfully demonstrate and communicate their commitment to ethical eating. While they may be leading the force for ethical dining trends, consumers under 35 years also want convenient food options, which provide convenience retail operators with an interesting opportunity for growth.”

Convenience stores and restaurants must respond to the demand, and focus on increasing their ethical food options and cutting down on plastic.