Nearly 1 in 4 Americans cut back on meat ‘but it doesn’t mean vegetarianism is on the rise’

By Jenny Eagle contact

- Last updated on GMT

Eating less meat doesn't mean vegetarianism is on the rise says Gallup. Photo: Gallup
Eating less meat doesn't mean vegetarianism is on the rise says Gallup. Photo: Gallup

Related tags: Meat, vegetarian, Food

Nearly one in four Americans (23%) allegedly ate less meat in the past year than before, while the vast majority (72%) say they are eating the same amount of meat, according to Gallup market research.

Asked how often they eat meat such as beef, chicken or pork, two in three US adults say they eat it 'frequently' (67%) while 23% say they eat meat 'occasionally' and 7% 'rarely' eat it. Just 3% reported 'never' eating meat.


The research was carried out in a poll in September where it found despite Americans eating less meat it does not mean vegetarianism is on the rise. 

In fact, Gallup's latest report on this found 5% of Americans consider themselves vegetarian, similar to the rate over the past 20 years.

Data from the US Department of Agriculture found pork and beef were the most popular meats during the 1900s, but chicken sharply gained in popularity over time, eventually becoming the top consumed meat in recent years. From a global perspective, the US regularly ranks among the top countries for meat consumption​,” said Justin McCarthy, analyst and report co-author at Gallup.

He added, to reduce a ‘possible negative economic effect’ of reduced meat consumption, the government and industry leaders should take Americans' meat reduction seriously and consider the rationale behind it.

He said industry marketing should shift toward potential health, environmental or animal welfare aspects of the meat product and retailer marketing could be redirected toward the changing market and create new markets.

Gallup found the biggest factor in reducing meat consumption is health where nine in 10 say it is a major (70%) or minor reason (20%) for cutting back on meat.

After health, environmental concerns are the next most prominent factor leading to reduced meat consumption. Here seven in 10 say concerns about the environment are behind their avoidance of meat (49% say it is a major reason, and 21% a minor one).

Majorities also say concerns about food safety (43% major, 22% minor reason) and animal welfare (41% major, 24% minor reason) cause them to eat less meat.

Lesser cited reasons for avoiding meat are that it is more convenient due to other family members' eating habits (16% major, 24% minor reason) and that they see other people eating less, little or no meat (15% major, 19% minor reason).

Plant-based burgers

Religious reasons were the least cited reason for cutting back on meat consumption (12% major, 17% minor reason).

The most popular way to cut back on meat consumption is by eating smaller portions of it (77%), according to Americans who report having eaten less meat this year.

Other ways Americans have reduced their meat consumption is altering recipes to use less meat by substituting vegetables or other ingredients for some meat (71%) and eliminating meat entirely from some meals (69%)​,” said McCarthy.


Slightly more than a third of Americans (36%) who have reduced their meat consumption say they eat meat replacements such as plant-based burgers or sausages.

Only about 5% of Americans have self-identified as vegetarian over the past two decades, Gallup has found, and fewer yet identify as vegans. 97% of Americans in the latest poll report eating meat at least rarely, and two in three say they eat it frequently. Meat is here to stay.​”

Still, nearly a quarter of Americans are eating less meat. The momentum behind plant-based meat options may reflect that reduction in meat intake and possibly accelerate it.

Such a decline in meat consumption would particularly impact rural economies and industries, including hospitality, packaged food, grocery retail, and meat and poultry production and processing, the largest segment of US agriculture production.

Related topics: Meat

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