Could America ever be a meat-free nation? Not likely

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Meatfree It’s safe to say that Americans love meat. We spent an average of $1,100 per person on meat, fish, poultry and eggs in 2012, making up nearly 30 percent of our grocery bills.

Right now just 5 percent of the country calls themselves “vegetarian,” but as ‘ABC News’ investigates, what would happen if Americans pushed away the pork chops and steaks and reached instead for the salad bar?

The answer: there just wouldn’t be enough food for everyone.

“If we were to increase consumption [of fruits and vegetables] immediately today, we would probably not have the infrastructure to grow all of those products and hence some of those products would have to come from overseas,” Marco Palma, Assistant Professor and Extension Economist at Texas A&M University, said.

Today, Americans are barely eating half of the USDA’s daily recommended servings of vegetables and fruits. An extra 100 billion pounds of fruits – and 136 billion pounds of vegetables – would need to be imported just to get the nation to these recommended levels.

Even more would be needed to completely transition the country from omnivore to herbivore.

Going vegetarian wouldn’t necessarily help Americans lose any weight, either. In a country where two-thirds of adults, and nearly one-third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese, going vegetarian could only add to our waistlines.

“A plant-based diet is a great idea for almost everyone, but complete elimination leads to other substitutions,” says Rebecca Solomon, the Director of Clinical Nutrition at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.

She points out, “I’ve seen people just absolutely neglect their calcium needs, neglect their protein needs and get extremely carb-focused because that tends to be the easiest and quickest thing to get when you’re not eating any kind of meat products.”

Beyond nutrition, a meat-free America also would put a lot of people out of work. ‘ABC News’ estimates that it currently takes about 1.5 million people to keep our country fed, and livestock producers make up 32 percent of this workforce.

Simply eliminating meat in our diets wouldn’t mean that livestock would disappear, though. Contrary to vegetarian wisdom, livestock would still be necessary.

“They are an integral part of our agricultural system, manure is important to our fertilization system,” says Jack Algiere, four-season farm director at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture.

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Kentucky  |  March, 27, 2014 at 01:32 PM

The article was interesting and with fact until the last three paragraphs. I have discredited this writer now. thanks.

NW Indiana  |  April, 02, 2014 at 07:08 AM

Kentucky, -- butt don't let the door hit you in the spud on the way out.

Washington  |  March, 27, 2014 at 04:28 PM

Not mentioned in the article is the bovines position as possibly the Number 1 recycler in the USA. The cow eats all sorts of canary waste from corn cobs and husk to potato waste, soybean hulls and corn distillers from our "wonderful" ethanol program. The waste material, or unused portions of food for human consumption is huge. If it were not for the cow possibly as much as a few million tons of this waste material would truly be waste. The cow utilizes a large amount of this waste material for meat and milk production. Other species also eat some of this material but on a percentage of diet basis not nearly as much as the cow. Cow manure is a waste product/fertilizer but it is also a concentration of millions of tons of waste material from many varied human food industries.

Bea Elliott    
USA  |  September, 03, 2014 at 05:52 PM

The key phrase is "immediately today". And of course that's not going to happen. But there will absolutely continue to be a gradual decline in the consumption of animals and their secretions. Previous workers in the meat/dairy/egg industries will be absorbed into new companies that manufacture "meat-free and vegan" options. Others will rework their land into growing other crops and human foods rather than the mono-cropping of corn and soy for animal "feed". Using nonhumans for their manure? Human waste and permaculture can remedy that too. We don't have an issue when we export millions of tons of animal flesh to other countries. I don't know why importing fruits and vegetables that we can't/don't grow here should be a problem... Who knows? We might have the opportunity to taste and enjoy some of the 93% of the varieties of vegetables, grains and fruits that is currently "unavailable" to the U.S. Of course the animals will suffer less... That's a huge bonus. Our health will probably improve. Land and resources will be used more wisely. My thought is that we most definitely will become a meat-free civilization if we are to succeed at all.


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