After undergoing quadruple bypass surgery in 2004 and a later stent surgery, Bill Clinton adopted a vegan diet in 2010. Since then, he’s lost 20 pounds, and is now an advocate for vegan and meatless diets.
“I like the vegetables, the fruits, the beans, the stuff I eat now,” Clinton told a CNN reporter. “All my blood tests are good, and my vital signs are good, and I feel good, and I also have, believe it or not, more energy.”
Clinton is not alone. If the growing number of vegans continues to rise at the same pace, we could have a meat- and dairy-free country by 2050. Here’s the proof:
1. The Rise of Fast-Casual Chains. Casual-dining chains like Red Lobster and Olive Garden were all the rage in the 1990s but have faced decreasing traffic in nine out of the past 13 years. Instead, so-called fast-casual dining is red-hot. Chipotle, Panera and Five Guys offer cheaper, quicker, but also higher-quality, dining experiences. Fast-casual is the fastest-growing segment in the restaurant industry, with an 11 percent increase in sales in 2013. These chains are not all vegan, but they generally offer fresh, nutritious food, with vegan options — a very different proposal from the dreary over-cooked meat and fish options available at Olive Garden and Red Lobster.
2. Changes in the Fast-Food Industry. Chains like Burger King, Wendy’s, Subway, Dunkin’ Donuts and many more have pledged to phase out products derived from the industry’s most horrific practices. Moe’s Southwest Grill offers tofu, Chipotle offers “Sofritas” (delcious tofu braised in a variety of tasty spices), and Tropical Smoothie Café offers Beyond Meat as a substitute to any chicken wrap, sandwich or salad. The vegan chain Loving Hut has 43 restaurants in 15 states. Native Foods Café plans to open 200 new locations. And yes, McDonald’s is not doing so well.
3. Consumers Are Becoming Aware of the Horrific Effects of Eating Meat. Meat impacts the environment so severely because livestock require so much more land, food, water and energy than plants to raise and transport. Producing a four-ounce (quarter pound) hamburger, for example, requires seven pounds of grain and forage, 53 gallons of drinking water and water for irrigating feed crops, and 75 square feet of land for grazing and growing feed crops.
4. Meat consumption Is Down. In 2012, Americans consumed 12.2 percent less meat than in 2007. Half of us are aware of Meatless Mondays, and nearly as many of us are eating at least one vegetarian meal a week. If you search on Google for “vegan caterer” you will get 16,200 results. And the most vegan-friendly cities aren’t always where you might expect them: there’s Portland, Ore., Los Angeles and New York, but the list also includes Chicago, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. A Google News search for “vegan 2013? provides 24,200 results, while a “vegan 2003? search provides only 1,650 results.
5. The Famous Are Going Vegan. It’s not just Bill Clinton. Long-time vegetarian Natalie Portman went vegan in 2009 after reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. As she wrote in a blog on Huffington Post: “The human cost of factory farming — both the compromised welfare of slaughterhouse workers and, even more, the environmental effects of the mass production of animals — is staggering.” Similar to Natalie Portman, comedian and talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres switched to a vegan diet in 2008 after reading several books on animal rights and diets. “I do it because I love animals,” DeGeneres told Katie Couric. “And I saw the reality and I just couldn’t ignore it anymore.” Degeneres’ wife, Portia de Rossi, agrees; their 2008 wedding featured a vegan menu. Other big names who are vegan include Al Gore, Mike Tyson, Alicia Silverstone, Joaquin Phoenix and Usher.
As it turns out, we may not have a choice. While celebrities like Clinton have been advocating a vegan diet, leading scientists have issued stern warnings about global food supplies, saying that the world’s population may have to switch almost completely to a vegan diet over the next 40 years to avoid catastrophic shortages.
A vegan America by 2050? Hooray!
What do you think? Could the U.S. be vegan by 2050?