News / USA

As World Meat Consumption Grows, US Appetite Wanes

As World Meat Consumption Grows, America's Appetite Wanesi
X
April 03, 2013 7:08 PM
For the first time on record, U.S. per-capita meat consumption has declined for four consecutive years, according to the most recent figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. VOA's Steve Baragona reports the six-percent drop between 2006 and 2010 is the largest sustained decline since record-keeping began in 1970.
For the first time on record, U.S. per-capita meat consumption has declined for four consecutive years, according to the most recent figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The six percent drop between 2006 and 2010 is the largest sustained decline since recordkeeping began in 1970.

Reasons for the decline are at least partly economic: rising prices and a bad U.S. economy have made meat less affordable for American consumers.

But there are intriguing signs that a cultural shift may be underway, as well.

Meat availability in the United States, an indicator of consumption habits.Meat availability in the United States, an indicator of consumption habits.
x
Meat availability in the United States, an indicator of consumption habits.
Meat availability in the United States, an indicator of consumption habits.
'Something is changing'

Joe Yonan grew up in the ranching town of San Angelo, Texas, where beef steaks are a staple food. Now, he’s a vegetarian.

This certified judge of barbecued meat started noticing his tastes shifting while digging in to some Texas brisket a couple years ago.

“It tasted really great,” he said, “But I didn’t find it satisfying on a primal level the way I used to. And that was surprising to me. And I thought, ‘Wow! Something definitely is changing.’”

Something also is changing in the food landscape. This year, for the first time, chefs named vegetarian entrees as a top-10 hot trend in an annual survey by the National Restaurant Association.

Yonan, the award-winning food editor of The Washington Post, noticed the trend at work. His column explaining his conversion to vegetarianism drew mostly positive responses, and not just from vegetarians.

"I got a lot of e-mails from people saying, ‘I’m not a vegetarian but I’m trying to do more of that at home,’” he said.

Flexitarians grow in number

While about seven percent of Americans identify themselves as vegetarians, it's the “flexitarians” - people who eat occasional meatless meals - that market research firms have just begun to explore.

One such firm, Packaged Facts, found that eating along the “meatless spectrum” is popular among college students, who will carry those eating habits into their adult years.

“Young people today are just not so meat-and-potatoes oriented as earlier generations were,” said environmental researcher Lester Brown at the Washington-based Earth Policy Institute.

Health concerns are one reason. Many studies link heavy consumption of red meat to higher risks of heart attacks, strokes and cancer.

“We’re beginning to realize that too much red meat is not good,” said Brown.

A nationwide “Meatless Monday” campaign encourages people to eat vegetarian at least once a week.

Trust a skinny chef

You can still get a burger on Mondays at Washington’s Nage Bistro, but chef Christopher Roberson also serves up hearty sandwiches of quinoa in a tangy sauce, and other meatless specialties.

Roberson said encouraging healthier eating means breaking some stereotypes.

“People say don’t trust a skinny chef. I say, don’t trust a big one. He’s going to do that to you,” he said.

Opposite trend globally

But while meatless meals are catching on in the U.S., the demand for meat in emerging economies has grown along with rising prosperity.

“In other parts of the developing world, meat consumption is rising very fast. Brazil would be a case in point,” said Lester Brown. “And in China we’ve seen enormous growth in meat consumption over the last couple of decades.”

Brazil ate 43 percent more meat in 2009 than two decades earlier, and China consumes 58 percent more, according to the most recent U.N. figures.

Extra Earth needed

But providing the grain and water to feed those livestock takes a huge amount of resources, raising concerns about sustainability.  

“If the entire world were to move up to the U.S. level of grain consumption, we’d certainly need two planets the size of this one, and maybe by now, three,” said Brown.

Joe Yonan said his decision to give up meat was personal. He has assured readers that it won’t affect his editorial judgement.

“I think meat can be beautiful. I think it can be delicious,” he said. “I just don’t want to eat it.

You May Like

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Patty
April 08, 2013 1:21 AM
With the rise in meat consumption in China the obesity and illness factors have gone through the roof - young children having to attend 'biggest loser' type gyms to lose the weight...meat consumption sucks on so many different levels.

by: Mary Finelli from: USA
April 04, 2013 1:31 PM
Thank you for this article!! There's nothing "beautiful" about meat if you realize what it entails. Going vegan is a win-win-win solution for animals, our health, and that of the planet. It's easier, tastier, and more compelling than ever.
In Response

by: Jana The Vegan Piranha from: Ohio
April 05, 2013 8:10 AM
Meat is beautiful when it's still on the animal. We have no right to exploit other species for our own temporal pleasures.

by: jc from: usa
April 03, 2013 9:59 PM
There are many reasons why the number of vegans has doubled in the US in less than 3 years. Here are two uplifting videos to help everyone understand why so many people are making this life affirming choice: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKr4HZ7ukSE and http://www.veganvideo.org/.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More