A Change in Diet, Why Americans Have Started Eating Less Meat

Americans rank second only to the fine people of Luxembourg in the amount of meat eaten per capita a year. Americans, on average, eat nearly 25 times more meat a year than people living in India and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and eat between two to three times as much as those living in such nations as China, Japan, Columbia, and Mexico.

When looking at why Americans eat so much more meat than other nations, economists point out that the amount of meat a nation consumes directly relates to the overall income levels of the people living in that country. So Americans can afford to buy meat, but so can the people in France, England, and Germany; why such a disparity between the U.S. and these countries? The short explanation is that meat is just cheaper in the U.S. than most any other nation in the world.

In Europe, meat was historically given to the rich and aristocratic, who also happened to own most of the grazing lands used to raise livestock. In America, the boom of the industrial revolution, combined with the expansion of the railroads, allowed meat to be cheaply shipped to all points of the country. As more technological innovations kept allowing for cheaper and more efficient meat production, Americans have continued to eat meat at a historic pace.

However, according to several recent studies, that behavior seems to finally be changing. America’s love affair with beef peaked around 1976, and the amount the country has eaten yearly has dropped by 33 percent since.

As the numbers show, Americans today are still eating plenty of meat, but they have started eating much more chicken and fish instead of beef. But why?

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Photo Credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/schatz/2708231507/

For one, the price of ground beef has gone up 30 percent in cost over the last two years, and higher prices during a down economy could  be keeping many Americans away from the meat department at the grocery store. Americans in general have also started eating less meat altogether, as the amount of meat eaten in the U.S. has dropped in each of the last four years.

Surveys of those who have cut back on their meat consumption show that many individuals have started thinking more about what eating meat means for their health and lifestyle choices. In a recent joint poll between NPR and Truven Health Analytics showed that 66 percent of individuals who have recently cut back on their meat consumption were worried about the health effects of eating meat, while 47 percent said that cost was a major factor in cutting back. Social responsibility and the environment also played a factor in people’s decision to eat less meat, as 30 percent cited concerns over animal welfare as a contributing reason for cutting back, and 29 percent were concerned about the production of meat on the environment.

The survey also concluded that these numbers represent people in all age and social demographics. However, the majority of individuals who said they would like to reduce their meat intake in the future were more likely to be under 35, while those over 65 showed little desire for change.

Considering that over one third of the U.S.’s population qualifies as obese, and two thirds of the population is overweight, the fact that millions of people have begun to reconsider their diets can only be considered a step in the right direction when it comes to stopping the country’s obesity epidemic.

Timothy Lemke blogs about health news for Dr. Jason Peacock, a dentist in Tumwater Washington at Smiles Family Dental.

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