Americans Refuse to Quit Eating Meat
Posted For: MugsMalone
by Jess Thomson
Despite the great strides made by the vegetarian and vegan movements over the past few decades, most Americans aren’t going to give up their meat-based diets anytime soon.
An exclusive poll of 1,500 eligible U.S. voters conducted for Newsweek by Redfield and Wilton Strategies on May 17 found that a majority of Americans regularly eat meat and believe that it’s a healthy choice. They also said the meat industry is not that bad for the climate.
The polling also found that 81 percent of people eat meat at least once a week, and 10 percent said that they ate it only once or twice a month. Only 4 and 3 percent of the respondents said that they rarely or never ate meat, respectively.
Other questions revealed that 35 percent of people strongly agreed with the statement that it’s healthy to eat meat, with 41 percent selecting “agree” and 17 percent selecting “neither agree nor disagree.” Only 4 percent said that they disagreed, and a further 1 percent said that they strongly disagreed.
But eating meat, particularly red meat and processed meat, is less than healthy for our bodies. There is a link between increased consumption of red and processed meats and a higher risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and premature death, according to the Harvard Health Publishing website.
The polling also showed that while 34 percent of people believe that eating less red meat would help lower global carbon emissions, 40 percent said that they did not believe this. Twenty-six percent said they weren’t sure.
The meat industry, especially the cattle industry, produces a huge amount of greenhouse gases. A paper published in the online journal Nature Food found that raising cows, pigs and other animals for food is responsible for 57 percent of all food production carbon emissions, twice as high as those created by all plant-based food production. Beef alone accounts for a quarter of food production emissions.
The problem is the sheer amount of land needed to grow food for the animals, as well as the felling of trees to clear space for grazing and otherwise raising the animals. More land is used worldwide to feed livestock than to grow crops to feed people, according to the Nature Food paper. Additionally, all the transportation involved in the production process produces carbon dioxide, and the livestock themselves produce methane in their burps, a greenhouse gas with 28 times the warming power of CO2 on a 100-year scale.
The Guardian reported in 2021 that 5.5 pounds of greenhouse gases are emitted for every 2.2 pounds of wheat produced, compared with a staggering 154 pounds of greenhouse gases per 2.2 pounds of beef.
The polling did show that younger people are more likely to agree that meat is bad for the environment. Thirty percent of 18- to 24-year-olds, 50 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds and 47 percent of 35- to 44-year-olds said so. For 55- to 64-year-olds, only 16 percent of people said the same.
One alternative to satisfy Americans’ hunger for meat—outside of a vegan or vegetarian diet—is laboratory-grown meat. This is real meat tissue from animals that is grown in a lab rather than taken from the body of an animal. This would help minimize the carbon emissions produced in the meat supply chain, depending on how much the growth process generates.
Lab-grown meat was backed by President Joe Biden in an executive order last September. He said that the U.S. government is dedicated to investing in biotechnology that will advance the nation’s food security, including via “cultivating alternative food sources” and “looking to improve food security and drive agricultural innovation through new technologies…[including] foods made with cultured animal cells.”
However, this alternative doesn’t seem to have inspired much enthusiasm among Americans.
Twenty-seven percent of those in the polling sample said they would feel safe eating lab-grown meat, with 25 percent saying they would eat it. However, 55 percent said they would not feel safe eating lab-grown meat, and 57 percent would not eat it.
Additionally, while 30 percent of people said that they believed lab-grown meat provides a realistic alternative to meat produced from animals, 51 percent said they did not. Nineteen percent said they didn’t know.
The polling shows that while a large number of Americans recognize the meat industry’s effects on both human health and the climate, fewer of them are willing to change their habits or diets as a result.