Gallup 2018: Veg*nism In Stasis?
Over the years, Gallup has taken a series of polls of U.S. adults to determine the amount of them who are vegan or vegetarian. They started researching this question in 1999 and most recent poll was released in July of 2018. Interestingly, the percentage responding “yes” to either has remained relatively level in all polls, with roughly 5 or 6% identifying as vegetarian and 2 or 3% as vegan.
Broken down by demographics, vegetarianism is more popular with younger folks – 7% of those under 30 and 8% of those 30-49 identify as such. Veganism is reported at 3 or 4% in all age groups besides those 50-64, of which only 1% responded “yes.” In defiance of stereotypes of vegetarians as rich white yuppies, those earning under $30,000 per year were roughly twice as likely to be vegetarian or vegan than their wealthy counterparts. Perhaps less surprisingly, liberals tended to be more open to excluding meat and animal products than conservatives were. While 11% of liberals identify as vegetarian and 5% as vegan, on the conservative side only 2% belong to each category.
The poll notes that despite the relatively low numbers of vegans and vegetarians in the U.S., plant-based alternatives are a booming industry – growing by 8.1% in 2017 alone. Dairy alternatives in particular are growing quickly, and are forecast to bring in 40% of the revenue earned by dairy sales. Pollsters argue that this is a sign of U.S. adults being willing to integrate alternatives into their diets, even if they aren’t willing to go fully vegetarian or vegan.
That being said, it’s unclear whether the increased consumption of plant milk is tied to reduced consumption of dairy milk, or if it is simply used as a supplement or complement. Nothing about alternatives to cheese, butter, or meat is mentioned either, all of which are trending upwards in consumption. Looking at the data, it would appear that the drop in dairy milk consumption and rise in plant milk sales may be due more to specific problems people have with dairy milk rather than ethical or environmental concerns.
Overall, the poll is a good reminder to look at the big picture rather than individual victories. While the drop in demand for dairy milk and beef is good, a rising demand for chicken, butter, and cheese may offset this. However, the data is not all bad. The fact that 18-29 year-olds are almost four times as likely to be vegetarian than those 65 and older suggests a strong possibility for growth (or maintenance) in the coming decades, as long as those in that category can stay veg*n. The introduction of new alternatives to animal products could become a future factor, as people who are put off by poor-quality imitation cheese or meat may be convinced by new advancements in the sector. This seems to backed up by the growth of plant milks relative to total vegan population – when the alternative is not seen as significantly worse than the standard, people may be more likely to switch. As mock meats and cheeses improve in taste, texture, and nutritional value, it is possible that they may see a similar growth to plant milks, irrespective of people’s self-defined labels.