Vegetarian Journal Jan/Feb 2001

How Many Teens Are Vegetarian?
How Many Kids Don't Eat Meat?

Vegetarianism seems to be a booming trend. Witness all the new vegetarian burgers found in stores. Even soymilk is now in many refrigerator cases or on supermarket shelves. When The Vegetarian Resource Group exhibited at the National Restaurant Association Annual Meeting, one college food service person told us that 40% of his students request vegetarian meals! In a poll VRG conducted concerning eating out, over half of Americans said they would eat a vegetarian dish when eating away from home. Thankfully, many restaurants seem to be offering vegetarian fare that is not just a conglomeration of the 'sides' from the other dishes. Only by offering vegetarian full meals is the idea of the meat-centric dinner diminishing. Though we know the interest in vegetarian products is there, The Vegetarian Resource Group works to track the number of actual vegetarians (people who never eat meat, fish, or fowl). So how many young people are vegetarian?

Two percent of youth ages 6-17 never eat meat, fish, or poultry.

In a 2000 Vegetarian Resource Group Roper Poll, we asked this question: "Please call off the items on this list, if any, that you never eat. Meat (beef, pork, veal, lamb, etc.); Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck, etc.); Fish; Dairy Products (milk, cheese); Eggs; Honey." Two percent of youth ages 6-17 never eat meat, fish, or poultry. Two percent of teens (ages 13-17) never eat meat, fish, or poultry. Six percent of 6-17 year olds don't eat meat. The 2000 results approximately match our 1995 results when two percent also said they don't eat meat, fish, or fowl. About two percent of the adult population is also vegetarian.

Approximately 0.5 percent of American youth are vegan.

Approximately 0.5 percent of American youth are vegan. Though the percentages are low, and we are hesitant to state how many vegans there really are, our numbers seem to be consistent with our other polls. About 1/3 to 1/2 of vegetarians are vegan (don't eat meat, fish, fowl, dairy, or eggs). Though we wouldn't have guessed this a few years ago, it makes sense since a good percentage of the people who are really vegetarian (never eat meat, fish, or fowl) probably become vegan.

Often polls obtain higher numbers for vegetarians, but usually in those cases, the questions pertain not to what food a person actually consumes, but whether that person considers himself or herself vegetarian. This is important knowledge for marketing purposes and knowing what products people want. It's great that vegetarianism has such a positive image that people want to be considered vegetarian. However, many of those answering "yes" are not technically vegetarians according to the traditional definition of never eating meat, fish, or fowl. The US Census Bureau (based on adjustments to the 1990 census) estimates there are 35.7 million 5- to 13- year-olds and 15.7 million 14- to 17-year-olds. Thus we estimate there are about one million school age children who never eat meat, fish, or fowl, and are vegetarian. There were 1,240 youth who participated in this year 2000 poll, which was conducted by interviewing youth at their homes. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4%, with a confidence level of 95%. For information on vegetarianism or about other VRG polls, please visit our homepage.

Do Not Ever Eat:
MEAT 8% 7% 5%
POULTRY 3% 6% 3%
FISH/SEAFOOD 14% 19% 16%