Elana Kirshenbaum, VegFund’s fall 2012 intern, reports on some very encouraging trends!
With new vegan restaurants and products popping up throughout the United States, undercover films of animal suffering making major network news, and mainstream television airing segments on the benefits of vegan eating, the general population seems to be increasingly receptive to veganism. Current research supports this observation and demonstrates the public’s growing interest in consuming less animal-derived foods. Let’s look at what some of the latest studies found regarding trends in the United States.
The Vegetarian Resource Group conducts annual polls to assess how many vegetarians there are in the U.S. (defined as those that do not eat meat, poultry, or fish). Their 2012 Harris Poll, which included telephone interviews with 2,030 adults aged 18 and older indicated that 4% of the population, or approximately 9 million adults, are vegetarian and 1%, or 2 million people, are vegan. In addition, the poll results showed that 47% of the country eats one vegetarian meal per week. When sifting deeper into the results, their studies don’t find much difference between gender, age, or region of the country.
An extensive report from the Department of Agriculture projects that in 2013, American consumers will eat around half a billion fewer chickens and 400,000 fewer cows than they did 7 years ago. In addition, the report estimates that 22 million fewer turkeys will be consumed than in 2008, and 12 million fewer pigs will be consumed than in 2007.
A 2012 online survey conducted by The Monday Campaigns and Johns Hopkins Center for a Living Future explored general meat consumption trends and the influence of the Meatless Monday campaigns on consumer behavior across the United States. The survey was administered to a nationally representative sample of 1,005 adults ages 18 and over and found that:
- 59% of participants said they had cut back on their meat consumption in the last year.
- 40% are eating more meatless meals on other days of the week.
- 36% of respondents who were aware of the Meatless Monday campaign said it impacted their decision to reduce or consider reducing their meat intake.
- 62% of respondents influenced by Meatless Monday to cut back on meat say they’ve tried to incorporate Meatless Monday into their weekly routine.
The Thomson Reuters-NPR Health Poll on meat consumption, released in March of 2012, found that 39% of those polled indicated eating less meat than they did three years previously. With all of these statistics showing strong interest in reducing meat consumption, it’s important to understand what motivates people to make these changes. Health concerns seem to dominate as 62% of the online Meatless Monday survey respondents and 66% of the Health Poll respondents indicated that health was the primary reason for consuming less meat. Cost factors influenced 47%, animal welfare concerns influenced 29.5%, and environmental concerns influenced 28.7%. The research also indicated that adults under age 35 had a larger concern for animal suffering and environmental impact.
A growing number of people in the United States are reducing or eliminating their consumption of animal products. This pattern seems to be part of a shift that has been gaining traction for the last several years and is projected to continue. Despite the billions of dollars the meat and dairy industry spend on advertising, the truth about the benefits of eating vegan foods is causing people to change their lifestyles. Although there is limited national data on how vegan activists are impacting the attitudes and behavior of people across the country, we know through the many successes reported from food sampling and pay-per view events, film screenings, online campaigns, and mentoring programs that outreach and education are powerful. The work of vegan activists is helping to steer the culture toward a life-affirming and healthy vegan lifestyle. May 2013 be a year that exceeds previous statistics and allows us to reach new segments of the population with the powerful message of compassion for all life!