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Are consumers really cutting back on meat?

With a wave of new plant-based substitutes, are Americans actually eating less meat? Plus, get involved as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans take shape.

Amanda Radke

February 19, 2020

5 Min Read
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Beef Checkoff

The anti-meat rhetoric is constant, but are consumers implementing a plant-based lifestyle?

According to the USDA, Americans are forecast to eat 225.6 pounds of meat in 2020, so I think it’s safe to say that the majority of consumers really enjoy the taste of nutrient-dense proteins like beef.

However, a recent Gallup poll shows that nearly a fourth of Americans have cut back on eating meat.
Per the study, “Nearly one in four Americans (23%) report eating less meat in the past year than they had previously, while the vast majority (72%) say they are eating the same amount of meat. Very few (5%) report eating more meat this year than in the past.

“Certain groups are more likely than others to say they have eaten less meat in the past year. Women are about twice as likely as men to report having cut down on meat consumption,” according to the study.

“Nonwhites report having reduced meat in their diets at a higher rate than whites. Midwesterners are less likely to be reducing their meat consumption than adults in other parts of the country. About one in four residents of cities and suburbs have reduced their meat consumption, while residents in rural areas are less likely to report having done so.”

Read the entire report here.

And for us die-hards who eat meat every day, it’s important to know that apparently, activists are finding more success in providing new menu options like vegan chicken, burgers and sausages, instead of “virtue signaling” and guilting consumers about the ethics of eating meat.

Related:EAT-Lancet recommends slashing red meat consumption by 90%

A recent article in The Atlantic titled, “The Capitalist Way to Make Americans Stop Eating Meat” highlights how longer menus, including plant-based burger substitutes, may finally be the reason that consumers adopt a meatless diet.

In the article, Derek Thompson explains, “For the past 50 years, Americans have responded to the case against eating animals mostly by eating more animals. They have heard again and again about the moral and ecological costs of eating meat—from philosophers like Peter Singer and polemicists like Jonathan Safran Foer; from viral documentary footage of slaughterhouses and tortured poultry; from activist organizations like PETA and scientific reports on the fossil-fuel cost of producing a medallion of beef.

“But something is changing nonetheless. Although nine in 10 Americans don’t consider plants an acceptable substitute for meat, they increasingly consider plant-based “meat” products—like burgers from Impossible Foods, and sausages from Beyond Meat—an acceptable complement,” Thompson writes.

Related:Beef Checkoff: Does it affect demand and price?

“The investment firm UBS projects that the plant-based meat market will grow by a factor of 20 this decade, reaching $85 billion in annual sales by 2030. Cases of plant-based proteins shipped to commercial restaurants rose last year by more than 20%, while regular meat’s sales grew by only 2%.

“If these trends continue, per-capita meat consumption in the United States is all but certain to peak this decade. ‘Peak meat’ won’t happen because tens of millions of carnivores suddenly got religion on animal rights, but rather because they were motivated by the opposite of a collective sacrifice: the magic of a longer menu.

Beef must find a way to remain trendy and viable in the eyes of consumers. We’ve got nutrition, taste and even the comfort of the “known” value of our products that will continue to ensure that beef remains on the menu.

However, so many of these companies are using fear tactics and propaganda against meat to sell their products, and that’s where we need to work double-time to counter these attacks and promote our products.

Whether you eat meat or not is fine, so long as activists and the government don’t dictate to us what our diet should look like. Sin taxes, regulatory burdens on livestock producers and activists sneaking in ballot initiatives across the country are true and real threats to animal agriculture and to what we can afford to put on our dinner plate.

We should and desperately need to be a part of these conversations. A great place to start is to get engaged with the process as the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee shapes the recommendations for 2020-2025.

The next meeting is scheduled for March 12-13, 2020, in Washington, D.C., and from the coverage I’ve seen so far, it appears that the large body of science is showing how saturated fats from meat, dairy and eggs are beneficial in our diets.

By ignoring this wealth of information and instead continuing the same old rhetoric of filing your plate with more fruits, vegetables and whole grains instead of meat, dairy and eggs, we will continue to perpetuate the instances of obesity-related diseases.

What’s even more alarming is these recommendations are being written for “healthy Americans,” which ignores the two-thirds of Americans who are considered obese or overweight. Certainly there should be special considerations that help individuals address their health concerns like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc.

A one-size-fits all approach isn’t practical, nor should it be imposed on society as a whole. Don’t forget that these recommendations impact daycares, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, the military and other government programs.

You can help ensure meat stays on the menu. The public can submit comments on the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans by clicking here.

If you want background information or talking points on this topic, I encourage you to visit the Nutrition Coalition. There you’ll find a wealth of resources and an in-depth explanation of why the guidelines have been terribly flawed for decades.

Click here to learn more.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.

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