Meatless Monday – A Brief History
Meatless Mondays have taken the country by storm over the last few years. While this practice of cutting out meat once a week seemed to really gain traction in recent years thanks to famous foodies, celebrities, chefs, and bloggers creating buzz, there’s actually a history of going meatless dating back to the first World War! As a way to help ration goods, the FDA (led by Herbert Hoover) encouraged families to go without meat (Meatless Mondays) and wheat (Wheatless Wednesdays!). But after more rationing during WWII, meat consumption rose steadily from the 1950’s onward.
Somewhat ironically, it was during this time of restriction that factory farming was born and led to the current state we’re in now (but that’s for another post). The combination of post-war freedom-to-eat-whatever and the growth of factory farms combined with intense marketing campaigns (I’m sure many of you can think of a few slogans off the tops of your heads!) launched a steady nationwide increase in meat consumption. In an examination of 25 years of meat-eating trends, America’s per capita consumption grew from 190 pounds in 1980 to almost 220 pounds in 2004. Other stats show a 50% increase from the 1950’s to today.
Then in 2003, a former “Mad Man” rejuvenated the movement as we know it now, and it seems to be paying off. Just a few weeks ago, Mark Bittman reported that we are actually eating less meat. In his recent Opinionator column, “We’re Eating Less Meat. Why?”, Bittman points to USDA data that we’re expected to eat 12% less meat this year than in 2007, and a 2011 nationwide poll put the percentage of vegetarians and vegans at 5%, double the percentage of a 2000 poll.
While the number of vegans and vegetarians might be on the rise, I think a big reason meat consumption is dropping is the very accessible Meatless Monday campaign. It’s not a rule requiring people to give anything up, but rather take one day a week to eat grains, veggies, and fruits in some combination for the health of the eater and of the planet. Restaurants and cafeterias have made it easy by offering more meatless options, and a quick scan of http://www.meatlessmonday.com illustrates the many outlets helping the movement to gain strength. Add to that recent media hits like Food, Inc. and Forks Over Knives, and more people are waking up to the realities of our dependence on certain few main dishes.
As any vegan will agree, one of the most common questions we get is “so what do you eat?” Having one weekday set aside for ominvores to really contemplate a plate without beef, chicken, pork, or fish at the center of it is bound to have people realizing just how easy it is to swap out some of those old go-to dishes with new, healthy, sustainable dishes full of life, color, and plentiful nutrients!
And as a former meat-eater myself, I know how hard it is to first break that routine of planning a meal around an animal product. So over the next several months, I’ll be posting easy Meatless Monday meals that anyone can incorporate into their weekly routines!