What do vegetarians in the United States eat?
Ella H Haddad and Jay S Tanzman.
Am J Clin Nutr 2003;78(suppl):626S–32S.
The data in this study was taken from the CSFII, a US government survey which measured dietary intake over two 24-hour periods.
I’ll save time and give you the punchline right away: Of self-defined vegetarians, nearly 2/3 (214/334, or 64%) ate a significant quantity of meat on at least one of the two days for which their dietary intake was surveyed!
That’s right: pick two random days out of the year, and 64% of self-proclaimed ‘vegetarians’ ate meat during it. How many ‘vegetarians’ do you suppose survived for the other 363 days without eating meat, either?
Furthermore, 436 self-proclaimed meat-eaters did not eat any meat during those two days — far exceeding the number of self-proclaimed ‘vegetarians’ (334), let alone the number of actual vegetarians (120)!
In fact, the total percentage of self-proclaimed meat-eaters who didn’t eat any meat on those two days (3.4%) was 3.7 times greater than the total percentage of self-proclaimed ‘vegetarians’ who were able to stop eating meat for two days (0.9%)!
So What Does “I’m A Vegetarian” Actually Mean?
It turns out that meat-eating ‘vegetarians’ eat roughly the same balance of macronutrients as admitted meat-eaters.
The word “macronutrient” has several different meanings, but the most common is “one of the three substances that provide metabolic energy for animals: protein, fat, and ‘carbohydrates’ (i.e. sugars).”
So they’re eating a similar balance of protein, fat, and sugar. However, meat-eating ‘vegetarians’ eat a very different diet than admitted meat-eaters. They consume:
- 55% less beer
- 36% less fried potatoes (i.e. French fries)
- 35% less poultry
- 26% less red meat
- 16% less sugars and sweets
- 72% more fish! Apparently there are a lot of people who think fish are vegetables.
- 42% more legumes
- 36% more ‘other vegetables’
- 26% more fruit
- 20% more tomatoes
Yet some food habits remained the same:
- Grain intake. (Paleo isn’t mainstream.)
- Total milk
- Total fats and oils
- Wine consumption
If we look at the absolute proportions of each, not just relative percentages, we see that, in general, meat-eating ‘vegetarians’ are consuming much less meat, beer, and french fries—and are consuming much more fruit, vegetables, and fish.
The data is clear: in America, ‘vegetarian’ doesn’t mean “I don’t eat animals.” It means “I am trying to eat a healthy diet according to the recommendations of our government, the ADA, and my doctor or nutritionist.” This is made abundantly clear by Table 5 of Haddad and Tanzman, which shows relative intake of traditional “health foods” (whole-grain bread, soy milk, tofu) to be several times higher amongst meat-eating ‘vegetarians’.
Sure, It’s Funny: But It’s A Sign Of The Omnivore’s Doom
It’s easy to point our fingers and laugh at ‘vegetarians’ who eat fish because “I don’t eat animals” means “I don’t eat cute animals. But I’m OK with destroying the ocean because fish aren’t cute and I can’t see into it.”
It’s even easier to point and laugh at the real vegetarians: “I’m OK with starving and poisoning animals by clear-cutting and sterilizing their habitat to grow grain and soybeans—so long as PETA doesn’t show me videos of them dying.”
And it’s easiest to laugh at ‘vegetarians’ who eat meat—because they know in their blood and bones that humans are predators, and their misplaced guilt can’t stop their bodies from demanding nourishing, healthy, nutrient-dense meat…
…but that’s absolutely the wrong approach, for two reasons. First, because most of them are genuinely trying to do the right thing. (I was once a vegetarian, and I was a guilty omnivore for even longer. It’s difficult to deny your body the nourishment it demands, and not done lightly.)
Second, because it exposes an uncomfortable truth. Let’s think for a moment about what this means:
It means that ‘vegetarian’ and ‘vegan’ have become synonymous with ‘healthy eating’ and ‘environmentalism’.
In other words, it means that a tiny minority of loud, pushy vegetarians and vegans have successfully hijacked our entire nutritional and environmental discourse!
Against all biology, against all chemistry, against all anthropology and paleontology, against all the controlled studies, against all instinct and common sense, they’ve managed to convince the world that the healthy and natural human diet consists of birdseed and diesel fuel! Yet we’ve become nothing but fatter and sicker since heeding their advice—and the obese, diabetic bodies continue to pile up.
I call ‘vegetable oil’ diesel fuel, because it’s healthier to put it in a truck than to eat it. I call grains ‘birdseed’ because that’s what’s evolutionarily adapted to eat them: birds. (And some rodents.)
And that’s why I call the tiny minority of pushy China Study-wielding vegans and misguided vegetarians “The Birdseed Brigade.” (As opposed to the majority of well-meaning folks who have been bamboozled by their tireless propaganda.)
Even worse, industrial grain production impoverishes our farmers, destroys our soil and our water, and leaves barren land, salt flats, and dead ocean deltas in its wake. It demands unimaginable amounts of fossil fuels to create nitrogen fertilizer, toxic herbicides and pesticides, and giant sowing and harvesting machines, and to transport the grain from the Midwest to where people actually live. It demands giant, river-killing dams to fill irrigation canals. It strip-mines fossil water, pumped from underground aquifiers that took millions of years to fill—all to grow corn, wheat, and soybeans on land best suited for grazing livestock on perennial grasses.
Did you know that 3-5% of world natural gas production—1-2% of the entire world energy supply—is required just to make ammonium nitrate fertilizer? No, that’s not a misprint.
And just to choose the most ironically named example, the “Fertile Crescent” is mostly barren desert—denuded forever by the agriculture that was invented there, and once flourished there. (It covers regions of modern-day Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria…countries known for being desert wastelands.) Here’s a satellite photograph:
In short, industrial agriculture is an unmitigated environmental catastrophe. Yet, somehow, the Birdseed Brigade has managed to convince the world that grains and grain oils—the toxic, destructive products of industrial agriculture—are both nutritionally and environmentally superior to local, human-scale production of meat, eggs, and dairy! (Which, unlike agriculture, actually restores damaged land: read more here and here.)
Footnoting this article would take an entire book. Fortunately for me, someone else already wrote it: Lierre Keith, whose deeply-researched “The Vegetarian Myth” (available from Amazon, or direct from the author) is much more than a deconstruction of veganism and vegetarianism: it teaches us what it means to be alive on the Earth.
And though I’m not sure that her solution to agricultural civilization solves anything in the long run, it’s the most passionate yet clear-headed presentation of its intrinsic unsustainability I’ve read yet—far beyond Michael Pollan or any of the other apologists who think we can disappear on this Earth if we would just stop moving and eating so darned much.
Why Fighting Back And Spreading The Word Is Important: A Call To Arms
It’s important because the Birdseed Brigade wants to force us to eat unhealthy, tasteless, environmentally destructive industrial products, just like they do.
Denmark has already levied a tax on—wait for it—saturated fat.
Danish food industry sources slam ‘fat tax’
By Ben Bouckley, 14-Jan-2011
“Denmark introduced a tax based upon levels of saturated fats in all foods at the start of 2011…
The country’s tax ministry has calculated that butter prices will rise by 14% under the new tax regime, with margarine up 21% and whipped cream 12%…The least expensive duck will be 13.6 per cent more expensive this Christmas, while prices for the most expensive birds (with less fat) would only rise by 4.7%, thus penalising less affluent consumers.”
[And don't even ask what the extra tax on coconut oil (80% saturated) will be—because that will give you a heart attack.]
This means Danes are going to be eating a lot more omega-6 laden polyunsaturated vegetable oils…proven to increase the risk of heart disease! Yet, undeterred by the evidence, the Danish government pushes ahead:
“According to the Danish government-funded Forebyggelses Kommisionen (Prevention Commission), which assesses the nation’s health priorities, if the variable tax is levied for 10 years it will increase average life expectancy amongst the Danish population by 5.5 days.”
Say again? The best case, using the most brutally tortured fake statistics they can come up with, is 5.5 days? And they’re willing to slap on an extra 15-20% tax on real food to do it?
This is what we are up against. Paleo and Primal and Protein Power and low-carb and Atkins people, Weston A. Price disciples, real chefs and real grandmothers and real food eaters everywhere who refuse to stop cooking and eating delicious, healthy, natural animal foods—
—and don’t forget the poor, who live on the parts the rest of us won’t touch—
—THE TIME IS NOW.
The Birdseed Brigade Is Coming For You
The Birdseed Brigade is coming.
They’re coming for your butter, your coconut oil, your tallow and leaf lard. They’re coming for your prime rib, your pot roast, your liver and marrow. They’re coming for your eggs, your bacon, your cheese, and your jerky. And they are most definitely coming for your burgers and your ice cream.
This is no joke. They’re already pushing for a ‘sin tax’ on meat—as if the real sin isn’t the massive subsidies for destructive industrial agriculture that allow feedlots to exist in the first place, and that cause us to overproduce so much corn that we’re forced to add it to gasoline at a net energy loss and at considerable environmental damage!
This is not the time to be reticent, diffident, or demure. It is time to educate yourself, and educate others. It is time to forward your favorite articles, and to be generous with your paper books. And it is time to point anyone reading The China Study to Denise Minger.
It is not a time to apologize. Yet it is not a time to be self-righteous: what you eat (or don’t eat) does not make you a better person. Everyone gets enough of that from the Birdseed Brigade.
It is a time to be healthy and proud. You must speak out—but your body, your energy, your confidence, and your demeanor speak louder than your words.
Most of all, it is a time to feed real food to your family, your friends, and everyone else. All the guilt in the world can’t keep our bodies from craving what they need, and all the words in the world can’t describe a mouthful of creamy, delicious, life-sustaining saturated animal fat.
Live in freedom, live in beauty.
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And if you enjoy my writing here at gnolls.org, you’ll also enjoy my “Funny, provocative, entertaining, fun, insightful” novel The Gnoll Credo. (Read glowing reviews, read the first 20 pages, and if you’re outside the USA, click here.)