Meat is everywhere and Americans are eating more and more of it; according to the US Department of Agriculture, the average consumer will eat 222.2 pounds of red meat and poultry in 2018 alone – surpassing a record set in 2004.
But how meat conscious are we, really? Sure, we know roughly where it comes from (farms), and where to get it (the supermarket, farmer’s market, wrapped up nicely in cellophane or brown paper), but what about the process that gets it from the farm to our table? Perhaps that conjures up some images we’d rather not picture, like slaughterhouses… But the question is, if the only way for you, the average consumer, to eat meat was to slaughter it yourself – would you? Are we too squeamish to want to do that bit ourselves? Do we prefer to turn a blind eye to how it’s prepared for consumption? Digital public relations agency, Cherry Digital, surveyed 2,500 carnivorous Americans and asked them just that.
And the answers were very interesting, starting with the fact that almost half of all American meat-eaters (49.3%) said they just couldn’t eat meat if they had to kill the animal themselves. And that’s taking into account our widespread hunting culture, where shooting the likes of boar, deer and waterfowl is commonplace. Perhaps when it actually comes to day of reckoning, taking another creature’s life yourself is just too tough. When broken down by gender, only 34.7% of women said they could slaughter their own meat, whereas 68% of men said they would have no problem doing it. These figures correlate with statistics on vegetarianism, which shows that 59% of vegetarians are women and 41% are men.
Cherry Digital also broke down the statistics by state, and found that it is Rhode Island (70%) that has the highest proportion of people who would not be prepared to kill for their own meat. Californians came in mid-table (presumably heavily weighted by all those wheatgrass eating folks from LA and SF!). On the other end of the scale, Utahns and Louisanans (both 16%), are the least squeamish.
The meat-eaters were also asked how many days of the week they could give up meat for, and the average was 2.1. For men, it was only 1.8 – clearly, they can’t last long without a smoky rack of ribs, hearty plate of meatballs, or a juicy burger… women have more self-control – they said they could give it up for 2.8 days, which is possibly because they’re also considering the health benefits of not eating too much red meat, too.
A decent proportion of carnivores – 53.8% – admitted to being concerned about animal welfare, and how they are treated before they end up on our dinner tables. And, finally, over a third– 39.9% – would consider becoming flexitarians: that’s when you have a primarily vegetarian diet, but occasionally eat meat or fish. So there’s a lot of potential out there for a cleaner planet – as meat farming does impact on the environment – and happier animals.
‘It’s hard to face up to the reality of where our food comes from, particularly meat,’ says Andrew Elliston of Cherry Digital. ‘They are living creatures after all, and if we just don’t think about how they become what we eat, then it’s easy for things to carry on as they always do, with often poor living conditions for the animals, poor treatment, and a huge cost to the environment. Hopefully people’s attitudes might start to change; if you want to become a vegetarian or vegan, you don’t have to become one overnight, but not eating it every day is a great start.’