Sustainability Environment

1 in 4 Americans are eating less meat. Here’s why.

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Story at a glance

  • About 1 in 4 American respondents told Gallup researchers that they have been eating less meat in the past 12 months.
  • Health is a leading motivator for reducing meat consumption.
  • Despite the declining numbers, researchers say that the meat industry will endure, with a solid majority still eating meat.

Almost 1 in 4 Americans are eating less meat than in the past, with women, democrats, nonwhites and those living in cities leading the change, according to a new Gallup poll

At the same time, most Americans — 72 percent — are still eating about the same amount of meat.

The study was conducted from Sept. 16 to 30 via telephone calls with U.S. adults. 

An increase in meat intake is rarer among respondents, with only 5 percent of the population surveyed saying they are eating more meat this year than in previous years.

Spearheading the national decrease in meat consumption are women, who make up 31 percent of respondents who are eating 23 percent less meat. 

Parallel to this is the reported 65 percent of women who have been eating about the same amount of meat in the past 12 months. Men outpace women in this category: 79 percent report their meat consumption is unchanged. This implies that more women are changing their meat consumption, and mostly eating less of it.

Considering politics, Democrats lead the decrease in meat consumption, which generally aligns with the party’s broad sustainability initiatives. Conversely, Republicans have consumed about 12 percent less meat. An 81 percent majority of Republican respondents say their consumption is unchanged.

Additionally, Republicans report increasing their meat intake by 6 percent, one percentage point up by the higher average. 

City residents tie with suburban residents for the demographic eating less meat, both groups boasting a 24 percent decline. This is likely due to increased options, whereas rural/town residents only decrease their consumption by 19 percent. 

Racially, nonwhite people outpace white people in decreasing their meat consumption, at a 31 percent decrease against a 19 percent decrease, respectively. 

Gallup reports that the leading motive to reduce meat consumption is for health reasons. Approximately 9 out of 10 respondents say health is a major or minor reason for scaling back meat intake, at 70 percent and 20 percent respectively. 

After health, environmental concerns come in as the second largest reason for reducing meat consumption, with 7 in 10 eating less meat to reduce their carbon footprint. This tracks with previous data that says voters, especially younger ones, are increasingly concerned with climate change as they head to the polls. 

Following health and environmental concerns, food safety, animal welfare and peer influence are the next most popular reasons for eating less meat. 

The poll’s authors point out that a small population identify as vegetarian or vegan, and a 97 percent majority of respondents say they do eat meat at least “rarely”, with approximately 66 percent eating it frequently. 

The researchers’ conclusion? “Meat is here to stay.”

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