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How 'Part-Time Vegetarians' Are Dealing With the Rising Cost of Meat

As more Americans adopt vegetarian and vegan diets for health, ethical, and environmental reasons, the sticker shock of meat prices is becoming a tipping point. Social media posts indicate that finances are increasingly playing a role in people's decisions to eschew animal products.

September 21, 2022
5 minutes
minute read

As the cost of meat continues to rise, more and more consumers are turning to vegetarianism as an alternative. This shift could have a major impact on the meat industry, as demand for their products decreases. While some may view this as a negative development, others see it as an opportunity to promote more sustainable and environmentally-friendly diets.

As more Americans adopt vegetarian and vegan diets for health, ethical, and environmental reasons, the sticker shock of meat prices is becoming a tipping point. Social media posts indicate that finances are increasingly playing a role in people's decisions to eschew animal products.

The cost of beef, fish and poultry increased by 8.8% in August compared to the same month last year, according to data from the US Labor Department. The average price of steak was $9.54 per pound at the end of August, down from the record high of $10.23 in November, but still up 25% from August 2019, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

Tamara Sylvestre, a single mom from Chicago, said the steep costs of meat have turned her into a vegetarian. In recent months, the 33-year-old recruiter started cutting back on chicken, salmon and shrimp as she saw prices rise every time she went to the supermarket. She reached a breaking point in July, cutting meat out of her diet unless there’s a particularly good sale at the store or she visits her parents for a home-cooked meal. “I can survive without meat when the prices are this high,” she said, adding that she still buys chicken nuggets for her 11-year-old daughter.

I'm a part-time vegetarian because the price of meat is too high. I can't afford to eat meat every day, so I only eat it occasionally. This way, I can still enjoy the taste of meat without spending too much money on it.

As some consumers declare themselves "part-time vegetarians" in response to rising prices, those who were already interested in veganism are finding even more reasons to make permanent changes to their diets. Whether motivated by concerns about animal welfare, the environment, or their own health, more and more people are choosing to ditch animal products altogether. With an increasing number of delicious vegan options available, it's easier than ever to make the switch to a vegan lifestyle.

I've been trying to eat more vegan/vegetarian meals at home, so I haven't bought meat in a while. Today, I looked to see how much a pack of chicken breasts cost, and I was shocked to see that it had gone from $13 to $20. I'm hugging my vegan nuggets extra close tonight!

Mary Parrish, a 28-year-old Atlanta-based animator, started trading milk for plant-based creamers and swapped chicken nuggets for vegan ones about six months ago. When she saw the price of chicken breasts increase from $13 to $20, she decided to give up meat when she cooks at home. Parrish avoids meat substitutes that are more expensive than meat itself, opting for pizza without pepperoni or burrito bowls full of vegetables instead. "It's better for the environment and it's cheaper," she said.

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