Meat Consumption Declining

We’ve talked before about how Americans eat more meat than any other people on Earth. But we’ve also talked about the high price of that abundance: animal cruelty, illegal immigrants, food contamination, heart disease, obesity and poor food quality. That has led many food enthusiasts, chefs and bloggers to advocate eating less meat through programs like Meatless Mondays.

And the effort seems to be working, although the reason why depends on who you ask. Mark Bittman of the New York Times  reports our meat consumption has dropped by more than 12 percent in the last five years, according to the U. S. Agriculture Department. That’s not just beef and pork, but chicken, too. If you ask the meat industry lobbying group, they claim the government has launched a war against eating meat.

But Bittman says sees government giving the industry lots of goodies.

“Because what I see here is:

  • a history of subsidies for the corn and soy that’s fed to livestock
  • a nearly free pass on environmental degradation and animal abuse
  • an unwillingness to meaningfully limit the use of antibiotics in animal feed
  • a failure to curb the stifling power that corporate meatpackers wield over smaller ranchers
  • and what amounts to a refusal — despite the advice of real, disinterested experts, true scientists in fact —  to unequivocally tell American consumers that they should be eating less meat.”

So why are we eating less meat? Some would say it’s because of the economy. However, poultry prices, thanks to government subsidies, have actually fallen at the same time as sales.

Bittman says more of us are choosing to eat less meat for good reasons.

“The Values Institute at DGWB Advertising and Communications just named the rise of “flexitarianism” — an eating style that reduces the amount of meat without “going vegetarian” — as one of its top five consumer health trends for 2012. In an survey of 1,400 members, more than one-third of home cooks said they ate less meat in 2011 than in 2010. Back in June, a survey found that 50 percent of American adults said they were aware of the Meatless Monday campaign, with 27 percent of those aware reporting that they were actively reducing their meat consumption.”

While it’s true that we still eat too much meat, the fact that consumption has declined significantly in the last few years, regardless of the price, is important and shows that our tastes are growing up. Let’s keep up the good work.