Meatless meals were s a top food trend for 2011.
It may be due to rising prices, concern for the environment or a growing emphasis on health, but Americans are eating less meat.
According to recent USDA projections, the country will see a sharp drop in meat consumption this year. Americans are expected to eat 12 percent less meat and poultry than they ate five years ago.
Tanya Steel, editor of epicurious.com, saw the trend coming, pegging meatless meals as a top food trend for 2011.
Anecdotal evidence, said Steel, as well as searches on epicurious.com bear out her predictions.
“More people, especially those over 65 and those under 30, are eating less and less meat and searching for high protein items to replace meat,” said Steel. “Tempeh, tofu, quinoa, lentils, eggs, peanut butter, nuts, soy, beans, as well as fish and shellfish, are all rising up in our search queries.”
The Allrecipes food site found in its recent survey, “What American Families are Eating and Cooking,” that more than one-third of U.S. households ate less meat in 2011, mostly for health reasons.
But not just on Meatless Mondays, although that nonprofit initiative of The Monday Campaigns, in association with the Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, continues to attract attention. The Meatless Monday initiative stresses the health benefits of cutting meat consumption, as well as the environmental impact of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, minimizing water usage and reducing the use of fossil fuels.
Celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Simon Cowell, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Moss have spoken out in favor of the campaign. Even pork-loving celeb chef Mario Batali embraces the skip-meat-once-a-week trend and offers more meat-free options in his restaurants.
In Indianapolis, diners are “very interested” in meatless dishes, said Jennifer Laughner, a chef at SoBro Cafe.
Known as “chef Jenxie,” Laughner said she draws inspiration for meat-free dishes from a variety of world cuisines.
“It’s very hard to find good, healthy, ready-to-eat food,” said Laughner. “I decided that would be a really good niche.”
Meatless dishes on the SoBro Cafe menu include barbecue lentils, sweet-and-sour cabbage, a savory Dutch pancake and a veggie burger that’s the No. 1 seller.
“I can’t seem to keep enough of it,” she said.
Laughner, who has been a vegetarian but now eats some meat, said her style of cooking focuses on creating healthy food that tastes good. That some of it is vegetarian is beside the point.
“That’s not what it’s about,” she said. “I like making food so that people don’t notice that there’s no meat in it.”
Via USA Today