Plant-based diets are on the rise among millenials

Jess Kaplan, Opinions Editor

Thousands of years ago, our human ancestors discovered an element that would change the whole course of human history—fire. This breakthrough enabled humans to cook their meat instead of eating it raw, as is the custom of less evolved species. From then on, humans continued to develop at a rapid rate. In fact, many scientists believe that the consumption of cooked meat has been crucial to the development of the human brain, enabling humans to surpass the intelligence of all other organisms. However, the present American food industry treats food as a commodity rather than a communal object. In the coming decades, the unnatural way in which our food is prepared will have dramatic ramifications for the planet.

The world population is expected to swell to nine billion in the next 40 years. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations predicts that global food production will need to increase 60 percent in order to prevent a massive famine. Yet aiding this looming famine solely through an increased meat production is illogical and detrimental to the natural world. Instead, it is necessary for the world to embrace a plant-based diet.

Millennials have been essential to the shift towards a vegetarian diet, converting it from tasteless to trendy. Since climate change is a key obstacle of the millennial generation, they are much more likely to consider the source of food, animal welfare issues, and environmental consequences of their dietary decisions. In fact, 12 percent of the millennial generation are vegans and vegetarians, compared to only five percent of baby boomers. Meat production companies and chain restaurants have begun to capitalize on this cultural change: Tyson Foods, the largest meat provider in the United States, invested in the the plant-based production company Beyond Meat, supermarkets like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods boast an array of vegan and vegetarian options, and the majority of chain restaurants now offer a vegan alternative.

Last summer, I decided to test being a vegetarian. While I was hesitant to give up cheeseburgers and bacon, I was curious to see how long I could go without meat. Leading a vegetarian lifestyle at home in New York City was shockingly simple. Despite my meat restriction, I never felt that my options were limited; all restaurants had multiple vegetarian options, there were plenty of other available protein sources, and my mom rarely cooked meat anyways. However, this quickly changed when I arrived back in Lewisburg. After only a week of eating salad bar tofu and an absurd amount of veggie burgers from the Bison, I was craving meat again.

Vegetarianism has yet to catch on in Lewisburg and rural America. However, given the rapid popularization of plant-based diets in urban areas, the future of vegetarianism in the rural areas is optimistic.

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