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    How Many Vegetarians Are Out There?

    National poll reveals insights into vegetarian trends

    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 (VRG) 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 percent don't eat these foods at more than half of their meals (but not all the time). Thus, one-third (33%) of the country are eating vegetarian meals a significant amount of the time (in addition to committed vegetarians), which certainly bodes well for companies producing vegetarian foods.

    In a 2008 VRG national telephone survey, 40 percent of participants said when eating out they often order a dish without meat, fish or fowl. For folks trying to get a handle on the population very interested in vegetarian foods, though not vegetarian, the Baltimore-based VRG estimates that the figure to be range between 30 percent and 40 percent of the country.

    Among the highlights of survey, methodology for which appears below, approximately 5 percent of the country said they never eat meat, fish, seafood, or poultry. About half of these vegetarians are also vegan, meaning that they also don't eat dairy or eggs.

    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 Democrats and Republicans 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.

    Methodology

    The 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.

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