America’s appetite for meat may be on the decline, according to figures released by the USDA. As noted earlier this year by NY Times columnist Mark Bittman, U.S. meat consumption is expected to decrease by more than 12% between 2007 and the end of 2012.
While there are many reasons for the drop, Dr. Robert Lawrence, Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, points to health concerns as a driving factor, citing the organizing power that Meatless Monday has had in this important shift.
“I think the trend is toward a growing awareness that a high meat diet is a high-risk diet,” Dr. Lawrence shared with the industry site, Food Navigator, and “a growing awareness that a high meat diet is unsustainable.” Many consumers are cutting their consumption in light of rising prices and environmental concerns, but Dr. Lawrence says personal health is a key reason that Americans are eating less meat:
“For low and low-middle income groups, the most salient message was ‘if it would protect the health of my family, then yes, I’ll cut back’… the environmental message was presented early on, but was never quite as powerful as the health message.”
Dr. Lawrence notes that Meatless Monday has been able to rally individuals and organizations alike, no matter their primary reason for reducing consumption. The simple request that Americans start the week with a meatless meal, coupled with delicious, produce-packed recipes, has helped people explore the issues around meat consumption and the many benefits of cutting back:
“[The Meatless Monday team] realized that setting targets, realistic targets, would be a powerful incentive… You take a general public and you pick off those who are really concerned about public health, those who are concerned about the environment, rural communities… you add all those up and you are reaching a big sector of the American public.”