How Many Youth in the U.S. Are Vegetarian?

The Vegetarian Resource Group Asks in a 2010 National Poll

Today, we see veggie burgers in most supermarkets, commercials for soymilk on TV, and even vegetarian cartoon characters, such as Lisa Simpson. Vegan bakeries are popping up in many major cities. National restaurant chains like Subway sell meatless sandwiches. In The Vegetarian Resource Group student scholarship contest, VRG has received entries from Kansas, Louisiana, and Texas, as well as California and New York. So, what is the wave of the future? How many young vegetarians are there in the United States?

When asking about the number of vegetarians, you may obtain quite varied answers, depending on how a person defines 'vegetarian.' The word has a positive connotation, as illustrated by the many people who are not actually vegetarian but call themselves 'vegetarian.'

To find an estimate of the number of younger 'true' vegetarians in the United States, VRG commissioned Harris Interactive® to conduct an online survey querying 8- to 18-year-olds with the following:

Please tell us which of the following foods, if any, do you never eat? I never eat ...

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish/Seafood
  • Dairy Products
  • Eggs
  • Honey
  • I eat all of these foods.

The survey results indicate that 7 percent of 8- to 18- year-olds never eat meat, while 12 percent of males ages 10-12 stated they don't eat meat. In a 2009 VRG Harris poll, a similar 8 percent of adults said they never eat meat. Other surveys, which don't use the word 'never,' will likely find that even more people don't eat meat.

In the poll, 3 percent of U.S. youth indicated they never eat meat, poultry, and fish/seafood. They were classified as vegetarian. Approximately one-third of the vegetarians (1 percent of the U.S. youth population) also never eat dairy, eggs, and honey and, therefore, were classified as vegan. One-third of the vegetarians (1 percent of the U.S. youth population) were vegan except for honey.

Thus, about two-thirds of vegetarians (2 percent of the youth population in the U.S.) are either vegan or vegan except for honey. When marketing to vegetarians, these numbers make a good case for producing vegan products, as well as producing items that will appeal to youth who are not vegetarian but don't eat meat. Remember that vegans also tend to be the 'activists,' who will push your product or business.

We would estimate approximately 1.4 million youth in the United States are vegetarian, while approximately 3 million never eat meat. This brings up the 'veto factor.' If one individual in a group of youth is vegetarian, the whole group may 'veto' a restaurant that only serves meat and choose a restaurant with vegetarian alternatives. For restaurants, offering meatless options has more of an impact beyond just meeting the needs of the vegetarians.

For additional vegetarian polls, see


Harris Interactive® fielded the study on behalf of The Vegetarian Resource Group from January 13 to January 19, 2010, via its YouthQuerySM online omnibus service, interviewing a nationwide sample of 1,258 U.S. youth aged 8 to18 years old. Data were weighted using propensity score weighting to be representative of the total U.S. 8- to 18-year-old population on the basis of region, age within gender, education, household income, race/ethnicity, and propensity to be online.

Using traditional methods, with a pure probability sample, one could say with a 95 percent probability that the overall results have a sampling error of approximately three percentage points. However, that does not take other sources of error into account. This is an online poll, using an opt-in sample. Because sampling techniques are not based on a pure probability sample, it is not possible for Harris to quantify or estimate sampling error. Nonprobability samples can still be representative of the population but cannot depend upon the rationale of probability theory. The data is weighted to reflect the composition of the entire U.S. population of 8- to 18-year-olds.

About Harris Interactive®

Harris Interactive® is one of the world's leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries and serves clients in over 215 countries and territories. For more information, please visit

3%Vegetarian (Includes vegans and vegans except for honey)
2%1% vegan + 1% vegan except for honey
1%Vegan (Rounded up to 1%)
1%Vegan except for honey (Rounded down to 1%)
3%Male vegetarians
3%Female vegetarians
3%Male vegans or vegans except for honey*
2%Female vegans or vegans except for honey
4%Vegetarians ages 8-12
3%Vegetarians ages 13-18
4%Vegetarians in the East**
4%Vegetarians in the South**
2%Vegetarians in the Midwest**
2%Vegetarians in the West**

* Not all young male vegetarians are vegan. Numbers aren't exact because of rounding and sampling error.

** The East includes Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and West Virginia. The South includes Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. The Midwest includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. The West includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming.

8%Ages 8-12
7%Ages 13-18
9%Male, ages 8-9
9%Female, ages 8-9
12%Male, ages 10-12
3%Female, ages 10-12
5%Male, ages 13-15
9%Female, ages 13-15
5%Male, ages 16-18
8%Female, ages 16-18

* For states that each region covers, see previous poll.

22%Never eat fish
7%Never eat poultry
7%Never eat meat
11%Never eat eggs
6%Never consume dairy products
21%Never consume honey

Charles Stahler is Co-Director of The Vegetarian Resource Group.