The United States of America Veganism

The Facts

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the United States is one of the top four countries in meat consumption.

Published by BBC Health News

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), meat consumption, production, and exportation is predicted to increase again for 2020. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), published data showing that 9 percent of the Green House Gas (GHG) emissions in the United States are from the agriculture sector. However, this did not include the emissions from transportation of meat within the United States and, more importantly, the emissions of the mass amount of meat and feed that is exported to other countries. This information paired with the fact that the United States is the second highest country in GHG emissions, shows the impact that the meat industry is leaving on the planet.

Published by the World Resources Institute

Meat Culture

According to Meathooked by Marta Zaraska, one of the huge driving factors keeping everyone coming back to meat is culture.

"In Western cultures, we are used to a specific plate composition. Basically, there should be meat, a starch, and two vegetables on it. Take out the meat, and not enough is left." - Meathooked

Meat is an important part of U.S. culture, from Thanksgiving turkeys and Christmas hams, to the infamous hamburger being globally marketed as true U.S. American cuisine. Meat is seen in advertising, television, and is the cultural norm. Not eating meat, could look or feel like rejecting U.S. American culture.

The influence of U.S. American culture around the world and through globalization of U.S. fast food giants, such as McDonald's and Burger King, meat could be a symbol of success, progression, development, and honestly, cool-ness.

Meanwhile, vegan and vegetarianism are culturally linked to weakness or femininity. Meat is masculine, while the women at the table are only allowed to order salad. Advertisements are often guilty of this type of labeling.

This has led to a group of social media influencers responding to the never-ending question of “where do you get your protein?” In, May of 2018, Muscle & Fitness Magazine featured their first vegan body builder on the cover of their magazine. Nimai Delgado was raised vegetarian and switched to a completely vegan diet as an adult. Delgado states in his interview with the magazine, “There’s a huge misconception that you can’t build muscle without animal protein.”


If meat is so bad for the environment, why isn't the government proposing meat taxes and promoting a meatless lifestyle?

The Politics of Meat, an article by Steve Johnson, begins to shed the light on the influence that the meat industry moguls have on Capitol Hill. Johnson states, “Most of the companies involved in the meat business, including meatpackers, are represented by one or more of the powerful meat trade and lobbying organizations: the North American Meat Institute, the National Meat Association (NAMI), and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.” Below is an infograph I found on the North American Meat Institue website. This shows the amount of daily meat consumption in men and women compared to the “recommended” amount. According to this, American’s aren’t getting enough meat!

However, after a quick search, the World Cancer Research Fund International states that people should not eat more than 12-18 oz of red meat a week while NAMI believes that nearly 40 oz. of meat should be eaten a week.

It’s difficult to publish anything that is against the meat industry. In 1996, Oprah Winfrey was sued by the Texas cattle industry after airing a segment discussing mad cow disease then stating it “has just stopped me cold from eating another burger. I’m stopped.” The Texas cattle industry asked for $10 million in damage but the jury ended up voting in Winfrey’s favor.

More recently, with the popularity of Netflix, several vegan documentaries have attempted to enlighten viewers on the meat industry's effects on the world. Cowspiracy, What the Health, and Game Changers have had a heavy influence on the younger generations awareness of the meat industry as well as the health issues linked to meat consumption.

Meatless Options

Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have created waves across social media and news outlets, even breaking into the fast food industries by selling meat alternatives to Hardee's, Subway, and Burger King. However, even meat producers have started selling alternatives. Tyson and Smithfield are starting to invest in alternatives as well. #Meatlessmondays are consistently trending social media and Googling "vegan" has doubled in the U.S. according to this article.

Besides a vegan diet, there are other ways companies are working to combat the food industry's effects on climate change. There are three companies in the U.S. that are currently working on lab grown meat. Balletic Foods, Blue Nalu, and Bond Pet Foods. Balletic foods is focused on cell-based-meat products such as beef, pork, and chicken. Blue Nalu is focused aquaculture and seafood. "Pet food made from real animal protein. Without the animal." is what Bond Pet Food touts, stating they are true animal lovers.

For those that still aren't ready to give up the "real thing", scientists are looking at selective breeding and creating cattle that produce less methane. Maybe the U.S. will find a way to have its cattle and eat them too.