NPR recently featured a special series on meat in America, looking at how much we eat and our reasons for cutting back. They found that those who have reduced consumption cite health as their main motivator.
The USDA says we eat about 270 lbs of meat per person. That’s 12% less than we did five years ago, but still more than almost any other country in the world. In a recent poll of 3,007 participants, NPR and Truven Health Analytics found that 39% of Americans have started eating less red meat in the past three years. When asked why they cut back, 66% said that they were concerned about the potential health effects.
“Health officials increasingly point to meat as a cancer and heart disease risk that Americans should be limiting” notes Dr. Ray Fabius, chief medical officer for Truven Health Analytics. “Because of that and some other reasons, some Americans are now thinking more about how much meat they should eat.”
The poll showed that health is not only a key reason for eating less red meat, but also more likely than other factors to inspire actual behavior change. “What seems pretty clear,” says Fabius, “is that if we get the message to people that it is in your own best interest to re-evaluate your consumption of meat, they will reduce consumption.” Of those who didn’t cut back, only 45% expressed concern over health.
Dr. Robert Lawrence, Director of Johns Hopkins’ Center for a Livable Future, told NPR that these results were consistent with his work on the Meatless Monday movement: “Health concerns still remain the No. 1 reason people might consider cutting back on meat.” The campaign supports this trend by both sharing the health reasons for going meatless and helping individuals stick to their goals with weekly reminders.