Year of the Vegan

By Carly Knapp

When the Economist and Forbes say your cool, your cool and this year, plant eaters are prom king. With 2019 deemed “Year of the Vegan,” the secret society is out and everyone is inquiring about plant-based living.

In 2015, less than 5 percent of Americans were vegetarian and less than 0.4 percent vegan. Three years later, over 25 percent of 24 to 35 year-olds consider themselves vegetarian, vegan or plant-based.

A quick vocabulary lesson—

A vegetarian doesn’t eat meat but may consume animal products like cheese, butter, eggs, honey, etc.

A vegan doesn’t eat or use animal products, period. No honey, leather, animal-tested makeup, etc.

Plant-based living is in between, where someone consumes mostly plants, most of the time.

So if the number of people that consider themselves vegan, vegetarian or plant-based has more than quadrupled in the past three years, what the heck happened?

For one, documentaries showing the process from cow to kitchen turned off many meat eaters. Cowspiracy, What the Health and PlantPure Nation are three of the most recent films, joining over 20 documentaries that expose the animal food industry.

In addition to information on factory farming, health experts reporting statistics on meat consumption. Wellness films and podcasts are discussing health problems related to a meat-heavy diet.

For example, in 2015, the World Health Organization classified processed meats (sausages, hotdogs, etc.) as “carcinogenic to humans” and red meat (beef, pork, etc.) as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Report

The fact that processed meat, cigarettes and asbestos are in the same class was KBD (that’s millennial for ‘kind of a big deal’). The wellness world picked it up and ran and a lot of people started changing their diet.

In response, the food industry is saturating mainstream markets with “meats” made from plants, and I’m not talking about your basic veggie burger. Beyond Meat and Impossible foods are two industry leaders who make an array of “meat” products such as sausages, burgers and steaks using plants instead of animals.

Sports arenas and modern menus are jumping on these products. Food companies are slinging plant-based “meats” everywhere the American consumer eats. TGI Friday’s has added a plant burger to its line-up and, y’all, the McVegan has arrived!

Even the school systems are in. This year, Los Angeles School District became the second in the country to serve vegan meals. Before you go all PTA, this doesn’t mean the schools are banning meat! Instead, they are offering vegan options and incorporating more plant-based meals on the main menu. Along with the rest of the food industry, they are looking for alternatives.

Whether you like fried chicken or not, the shift towards less meat is undeniable. Veganism has always had a seat in diet discussions but now its moving mainstream. Netflix is all over it, Dodger Stadium sells veggie dogs and even the United Nations named a plant-based diet as the #4 initiative for climate change. Trend or a shift. What’s your take?