The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

How Many Adults Are Vegan in the U.S.?

Posted on December 05, 2011 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

With numerous groups pushing Meatless Mondays, Tofurky Tuesdays, or other campaigns to cut back on meat one meal or day per week, The Vegetarian Resource Group wondered how often Americans are eating vegetarian meals. In order to find an estimate, VRG commissioned Harris Interactive® to conduct a national telephone poll.

Seventeen percent of Americans stated that they “don’t eat meat, fish, seafood, or poultry at many of my meals (but less than half the time)” and 16% don’t eat these foods at more than half of their meals (but not all the time). Thus, 1/3 (33%) of the country are eating vegetarian meals a significant amount of the time (in addition to vegetarians)! This is certainly good news for companies producing vegetarian foods. No wonder why so many restaurants have added vegetarian options.

In a 2008 Vegetarian Resource Group national telephone survey, 40% said when eating out they often order a dish without meat, fish or fowl. For those of you trying to get a handle on the population very interested in vegetarian foods, though not vegetarian, it appears to be 30% – 40% of the country.

HOW MANY VEGETARIANS ARE THERE?
In this survey, approximately 5% of the country say that they never eat meat, fish, seafood, or poultry. About half of these vegetarians are also vegan; that is they also don’t eat dairy or eggs. Note that we had respondents select that “I never eat meat, fish, seafood, or poultry” or “I never eat meat, fish, seafood, poultry, dairy, or eggs.” Because we use the word “never” and give the definition rather than having respondents self define, our numbers may be lower than other polls. We also did not ask about honey.

METHODOLOGY
This survey was conducted by Harris Interactive by telephone within the United States on behalf of the Vegetarian Resource Group between March 30 and April 3, 2011 among a nationwide cross section of 1,010 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race, education, region, number of adults in household, and number of telephone lines were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.

In theory, with probability samples of this size, one could say with 95 percent certainty that the results for the overall sample have a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. There are several other possible sources of error in all polls or surveys that are probably more serious than theoretical calculations of sampling error. They include refusals to be interviewed (e.g., non-response), question wording and question order, and weighting. It is impossible to quantify the errors that may result from these factors.

HOW OFTEN DO AMERICANS EAT VEGETARIAN MEALS (no meat, fish, seafood, poultry)?
6% One meal per week
4% One full day per week
17% Many of my meals, but less than half the time
16% More than half my meals, but not all the time
5% Never eat meat, fish, seafood, or poultry
48% Thus we estimate this is the audience for good tasting vegetarian foods that fit individual needs.
48% Say they eat meat, fish, or poultry at all my meals. (The remainder didn’t know, refused to answer, or said none of the above.)
NEVER EAT MEAT, FISH, SEAFOOD, OR POULTRY
MALE FEMALE
5% 6% One meal per week
2% 5% One Day per week
13% 20% Many of my meals, but less than half the time
15% 17% At more than half my meals
2% 2% Never (though not vegan)
3% 2% Never eat meat, fish, poultry, dairy, eggs
DON’T EAT MEAT, FISH, SEAFOOD, OR POULTRY AT MORE THAN HALF OF MY MEALS
16% Total
15% Male
17% Female
17% Northeast
16% Midwest
17% South
13% West
15% Republican
15% Democratic

Maybe this is an issue where we can get Democrats and Republicans to agree and work together (over dinner). Six percent each of Republicans and Democrats also didn’t eat meat, fish, seafood, or poultry, at one meal per week.

Vegetarians do not eat meat, fish, or fowl. Vegans are vegetarians who also don’t use other animal products such as dairy or eggs. The Vegetarian Resource Group is a non-profit which educates the public about vegetarian and vegan diets. It publishes Vegetarian Journal and the book Vegans Know How to Party, offers two $5,000 college scholarships to high school seniors who have promoted vegetarianism, maintains a national restaurant guide at http://www.vrg.org/restaurant/index.php, and sponsors an e-mail list for parents of vegetarians http://groups.yahoo.com/group/vrgparents/. For more information, call (410) 366-8343; e-mail vrg@vrg.org write to VRG, P.O. Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203; or visit http://www.vrg.org.

For more poll information, see http://www.vrg.org/nutshell/faq.htm#poll/a>.

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8 to “How Many Adults Are Vegan in the U.S.?”

  1. xiaokang says:

    I am a vegetarian…but not from US, I am from Indonesia. Indonesia has many vegetarian options everywhere!

  2. Katherine says:

    Think you should ask about honey and animal derived ingredients such as gelatine (sometimes in yogurt), chicken bouillon, fish sauce (sometimes referred to as “vegetarian” in Thaï restaurants).

  3. Katherine says:

    I think asking about more obscure animal ingredients muddles the issue. These people identify as omnivores–why would they make a special effort to avoid honey or gelatin? Especially considering that gelatin is in everything, from glue to currency.

  4. Gigi says:

    Yikes! Is that really how the questions were worded? “don’t eat meat, fish, seafood, or poultry”.

    Uh, fish is seafood; and fish/seafood & poultry are all MEAT. Sheesh. Guess they are meaning mammal meat — a distinguish that few make when describing “meat”. But why even leave it open to interpretation. Really should just state “meat of any animal”. That seems clear and inclusive.

    Hope no money was wasted on this survey. The ambuiguity makes this survey useless. Surveys need to be worded very precisely to control responses.

    As a veg*n, if I usually say “I don’t eat meat”, I mean that I don’t eat animals. But, the former is a bit more polite to carnivores (not that I care about offending them, really).

    (Meat actually is used to describe non-animal products, but in this context its meaning is pretty clear as not referring to the meat of a fruit.)

  5. Travis says:

    Unfortunately, Gigi, that type of wording is necessary. I often think of my favorite scene from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” where the aunt yells, “WHAT DO YOU MEAN HE DON’T EAT NO MEAT? … That’s okay. I make lamb.” Anyway, many people make the distinction between fish and meat because it’s… so different. And don’t forget those pesky pescatarians. And not all seafood is fish. Clams, lobster, shrimp, etc. aren’t fish. We gotta spell it out for folks.

  6. MotherLodeBeth says:

    Mostly vegan myself although I do make homemade yogurt with raw organic goats milk.

    There are hundreds of thousands of Seventh Day Adventists here in the US, and here in California alone well over 200k and they are vegetarian. And California like Hawaii has a good size Buddhist population, many who are vegetarian. Same with Hindu communities here in N California.

    And I doubt if many of these folks were included in this Harris Poll. I know folks at Loma Linda CA and locally who are vegetarian areas, have never ever been polled because at various gatherings people are asked to raise their hand if any of them have ever been surveyed in ANY way about being vegan/vegetarian. No hands went up amongst the hundreds and hundreds in attendance.

  7. Jeff says:

    The article says half of the 5% who are vegetarian “are also vegan; that is they also don’t eat dairy or eggs.” Aside from the fact that there are other animal products such as honey not listed in the question, there’s more to being vegan than what someone eats. Although it’s useful to know what percentage of people are eating diets with various degrees of restriction of animal products, the survey doesn’t address the question posed in the title of the article.



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