A study by Virginia Tech’s Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise, covering the period between 2012 to 2022, shows that despite Americans acknowledging the health and environmental benefits of plant-based diets, their willingness to adopt them remains limited.

The study, titled “US Adults’ Perceptions, Beliefs, and Behaviors towards Plant-Rich Dietary Patterns and Practices: International Food Information Council Food and Health Survey Insights, 2012–2022”, and published in 2023 in the journal Nutrients, found that while a substantial percentage of Americans view plant proteins as healthier compared to animal proteins, the consumption of meat remains prevalent across the country.

Data from the International Food Information Council shows that, despite an apparent doubling in adherence to plant-rich diets from 12.1% to 25.8% between 2019 and 2022, the majority of Americans continue to prioritise meat in their diets, with an observed increase in red meat consumption from 2020 to 2022.

Katherine Consavage Stanley, the study’s lead researcher, said in a Virginia Tech press release, “US consumers have favourable perceptions of foods and beverages that support human and environmental health, but that’s not translating into what they’re purchasing and consuming… “We can’t expect consumers to make sustainable choices if they don’t know the impacts of their purchases. We need to be doing more collectively to educate Americans on the benefits of plant-rich dietary patterns and to provide an environment where making healthy and sustainable purchases is the default choice. Too often corporations will place the responsibility on individuals, but Americans need a supportive food and beverage environment to make changes.”

A 2022 study from MyFitnessPal found that 81% of Americans believe they understand nutrition basics, but 91% say they have no idea of their daily intake of key nutrients such as proteins and sugars. A Yale University report also revealed that 51% of Americans would eat more plant-based foods if they knew about the environmental impact of their diets, but 70% rarely discuss this issue.

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.