America’s future with meat may look nothing like its past, if current trends continue. USDA predicts we will eat 12.2% less meat and poultry in 2012 than in 2007. Beef consumption has declined for the past two decades, and chicken and pork for the past five years – even though high chicken supplies have led to lower prices than a year ago.

What’s behind the meat-buying stall? Is it the expense, concerns about food safety, inhumane treatment of animals, the presence of slime in ground beef, or a general notion that eating healthier means more varied protein sources such as seafood and plants?  

Probably all of the above, according to Facts, Figures & the Future, which notes the rising popularity of vegetarian diets and the Meatless Monday movement. As a nation, we still eat far more meat than our population would suggest, but a new consciousness is seeping in. A telephone Harris Poll conducted for The Vegetarian Resource Group shows that one-third of Americans eat a significant amount of vegetarian or vegan meals, even if they’re not vegetarian (no meat, fish, seafood or poultry) or vegan (no dairy or eggs either). Another 5% call themselves vegetarian.

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