The Meatless (and Less Meat) Revolution

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This year, the average American will eat 165.5 lbs. of beef and poultry. That may sound like a lot, but it’s actually a 12% decline compared to 2007, when an annual intake of 189 lbs. of meat per person was standard. This week, chances are pretty good you’ll be hearing about the financial and health benefits of eating less meat, during “Meatout” events scheduled around the country.

What’s a Meatout? It’s a grassroots campaign to push consumers to “kick the meat habit,” if not fully than by a matter of reduction.

Throughout the week, Meatout events have been scheduled in big cities like New Orleans and Phoenix, as well as spots such as Daytona, Florida and Charleston, West Virginia, among other places. The goal is to spread the word, while handing out vegan food samples to 30,000 people.

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The movement is taking place amid a setting in which Americans are eating less meat for many reasons other than just the “wholesome, compassionate” motivation spelled out by the Meatouters. The USDA has noted a steady decline in meat consumption throughout the recession era, which is understandable because meals without meat (think rice and beans, pasta, etc.) tend to be much less expensive than New York strip steaks.

The Indianapolis Star recently called attention to the growing popularity of “Meatless Mondays” as a means to save money, while also trying to eat a more healthful diet and doing one’s part to do less damage on the environment. A Mother Nature Network blogger concisely lists the reasons why she—and, likely, most people—are gorging on less meat:

I’m eating less meat because I want to for health reasons, for environmental reasons, for budget reasons and to discover new foods.

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In its Meatout coverage, the Los Angeles Times cites a survey indicating that 16% of Americans don’t eat meat or fish at more than half of their meals. Even fast food joints are getting in on meat-free meals:

Non-meat options are increasingly popular at chain restaurants. Burger King has a veggie burger; Johnny Rockets has a vegan one. So do Denny’s, Baker’s, Fatburger and a slew of other major companies.

A veggie meal at a place called Fatburger? Doesn’t sound particularly tempting. But if ever you were going to give it a shot, Meatout week would be the time.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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