Is vegetarian-ism based on wealth/class?
July 13, 2006 6:15 PM   Subscribe

Is vegetarianism based on wealth or class?

One of my co-workers is a vegetarian, and it got me thinking, is the freedom to eat vegetarian significantly based upon wealth? Are vegetarians more often from middle- and upper-class backgrounds than from lower-class backgrounds? Does it cost more to eat (realistically) meatless, than with meat?

(any related observations welcome.)
posted by chefscotticus to Food & Drink (46 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
You mean Western vegetarians, right?
posted by fleacircus at 6:19 PM on July 13, 2006


I'd put forward that a lot of people become vegetarians in their teens or early 20s... and their wealth/class level at that time may or may not reflect their current wealth/class level.

But, as a personal observation, yes, it seems that I've met more middle and upper class vegetarians than lower class background vegetarians....
posted by k8t at 6:23 PM on July 13, 2006


It seems that every gutter punk I meet in Des Moines is a vegetarian (vegeterrorist is really the preferred nomenclature), but I don't have any nationwide polls to share. Amongst my friends (not gutter punks), who revel in poverty, vegetarianism is actually assumed.
posted by Homeskillet Freshy Fresh at 6:34 PM on July 13, 2006


The freedom to eat what and when you want, part of what people call food security, is generally a privilege of people who are not living in poverty. This is not to say that people with lower incomes can't eat vegetarian or that vegetarian food is somehow more expensive [it isn't but it's often harder to plan properly for appropriate nutrition and if you're eating from a food shelf or WIC you will have many foods with meat products in your allotment] but that people who make lifestyle decisions based on some social/political concerns are usually better educated which is often associated in the US at least with upper and middle classes more than lower classes. Most of the vegetarians that I know became vegetarians in college. This is again, only Western vegetarians that I'm talking about. People who are vegetarian for religious reasons in other countries have an entirely different set of reasons and incentives.
posted by jessamyn at 6:37 PM on July 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


There are a lot of vegetarians in India, so, no, wealth has nothing to do with it.
posted by cmonkey at 6:39 PM on July 13, 2006



There are a lot of vegetarians in India, so, no, wealth has nothing to do with it.


Big place!
posted by fire&wings at 6:47 PM on July 13, 2006


Does it cost more to eat (realistically) meatless, than with meat?

Well, no, it's actually cheaper to be a vegetarian, in my experience. I don't buy any meat, and generally the veg options in restaurants are a few dollars cheaper than the meat dishes. However, there are very few meatless fast food options, so if cheap and filling fast food is a staple of your diet (as is sometimes the case for people with limited funds), then becoming a veg may take a greater adjustment and cause the choice to seem less realistic. I don't know for sure, but I get the impression that the 99 cent options or dollar menu options at fast food joints are pretty exclusively meat, and that salads will run you a few dollars.
posted by amro at 6:50 PM on July 13, 2006


Having been both a vegan and omnivore, and having lived in a lot of different places, I can say this. All things being equal, it is definitely cheaper not to eat meat than to eat it. That being said, all other things are never equal. Either you prepare your own food, in which case you need a clean kitchen with ample counter and refrigerator space, and easy access to a store or market where you can buy perishable food on a very frequent basis, being careful all the time not to buy too much (it's easy, in an effort to get variety, to buy too much produce so that some of it ends up spoiling, especially if you tend to eat by yourself)....OR, you eat out, in which case you need access to vegetarian-friendly restaurants on a regular basis, and you need be able to afford them.

In both cases, having money makes things a lot easier, although I should also add that during my hardcore vegan phase, I was relatively poor. But I lived in a bohemian neighborhood in Seattle full of people like me - that is, white kids from upper-middle class backgrounds who had decided to move to Seattle and live a bohemian lifestyle. Reasonably priced health food stores and restaurants abounded, as did resources for vegetarians in general. Someone truly poor and desperate might have latched onto that scene, but I never saw it happen that I can think of.

Another thing to consider is that people who are really poor are more motivated to be concerned about their own day-to-day survival than the welfare of animals.

On preview, I'm willing to make the caveat that I'm talking about Americans, or maybe Westerners in general. Sure, there are a lot of vegetarians in India. But that doesn't mean that 'wealth has nothing to do with it.' It means that in India, the lifestyle of a poor person is not aligned with eating beef, white flour, and high fructose corn syrup the way it is here. Growing up a poor vegetarian in a community that has lived on vegetarian food since before you were born is not comparable to growing up on McDonalds and Popeyes and then deciding to start eating in a way that defies, and perhaps insults, the way that you were raised, and the way that everyone around you eats every day.
posted by bingo at 6:51 PM on July 13, 2006 [3 favorites]


Speaking as an vegetarian for almost 20 years, I started down this road because I found meat (good quality, not utility grade) was too expensive for my student loan lifestyle.

The reason I (and my wife) have remained veggie is because I learned how to cook very well. That is what I think is key. My friends who are still veggies are all excellent cooks, the ones that gave up never really mastered anything above bacon and eggs.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 6:53 PM on July 13, 2006


It's cheaper to eat without meat, mostly, but maybe more expensive to eat vegetarian food that's appetizing. Variety gets expensive, and spices are a luxury as an initial outlay, especially if the only place you can buy them is a regular grocery store. If you remember the hillbilly housewife from this thread, though, lots of her emergency menus are vegetarian - just because beans are cheaper than meat.

However, over the past thirty years the rise of the factory farm has brought the price of meat down low enough that it's now taken for granted that poor people will still be able to afford meat. Showing my age (33), but it wasn't when I was a kid and people around me complained of having nothing to eat but beans and potatoes, and I have a neighbor in her forties who became vegetarian when she was very poor in the late 70s.
posted by dilettante at 6:53 PM on July 13, 2006


thanks for the great input, and keep it coming!

and yes, I am primarily refering to vegetarianism in US/Western cultures.
posted by chefscotticus at 7:02 PM on July 13, 2006


I used to volunteer at a shelter for homeless teens, and a surprising number of them were vegetarian. My theory is that they had so little control over their lives that they took comfort in controlling what they put in to their bodies.

I'm a vegetarian, and lived for many years on a weekly food budget of $30. I'd say I'm solidly middle class, slightly better off than my parents (who are also solidly middle class, though it's easy for them to feel less-well-off because they live in uber-well-to-do Fairfax County, Virginia.)

Of my four brothers, two are vegetarian. One's still at home, so I'd say that qualifies him as middle class. The other is poor and struggling.

I have a very good friend who is unemployed, lacks a college degree, and lives on public assistance and credit cards and she's vegetarian. She's unarguably poor. She used to cook a lot and live a pretty healthy life, but depression has robbed her of the will to do a lot of things for herself. She can still find affordable food for a vegetarian diet from the ready-made foods at US supermarkets, but it's high in calories and low in nutrition. Her health has suffered and she's gained quite a bit of weight. I'd say that would be true of meat eaters, too, though, given the circumstances.

My best friend is a vegetarian from a lower-middle class background. She's now making a salary in the mid-$20,000s and struggling to pay off $50,000 in student loans. Determine what you want about her vegetarian status.

I'd say empathy for animals and politically liberal leanings are a common thread among all the vegetarians I know, but class doesn't seem to have a lot to do with it.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:23 PM on July 13, 2006


grr, Determine what you want about her vegetarian status.=Determine what you want about her socioeconomic status. Her vegetarian status is "vegetarian," duh.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:24 PM on July 13, 2006


Are vegetarians more often from middle- and upper-class backgrounds than from lower-class backgrounds?

I think it is not even debatable that the answer to your question is "yes." Of course vegetarians are more often from middle- and upper-class backgrounds.

First of all, the kind of sensitivity to animals shared by many vegetarians is far more common among middle and upper classes than among the poor.

Second, being a vegetarian is an expensive luxury. Yes, it may be true that the ingredients to make vegetarian meals can be cheaper than meat-based meals, but it is more time-consuming to plan meals in a culture where so many readily available culinary options revolve around meat. It is a luxury to be able to inform yourself about appetizing ways of preparing various vegetarian meals. The poor often do not have the time, the information resources, or the transportation that are required for a good, healthy vegetarian diet.

And, as someone who has spent a lot of time among the poor in the American South, I would disagree with the claim that a vegetarian diet is cheaper. You'd be shocked at the dirt-cheap meats that middle-class people would never dream of eating, that are happily gobbled up by the poor. Working one summer in a grocery store in rural Arkansas, I sold more chitterlings, souse, and hogs' feet than you can imagine.

There may be some vegetarians who are extremely poor and may have even come from impoverished backgrounds -- the gutter-punks cited by a commenter above might be an example -- but by living as "gutter punks," they are actually exhibiting, in a kind of perverse way, a bourgeouis ideology, so they confirm the view that vegetarianism is primarily a middle- and upper-class phenomenon.
posted by jayder at 7:51 PM on July 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


Echoing dilettante and Razzle B -- My father (in his late 60s) grew up poor in the rural South (poor as in no indoor plumbing and one pair of shoes a year). He still thinks of a vegetarian diet as a kind of deprivation, a sign that you just can't afford any better. (Well, he doesn't think that, because he knows the benefits, but he sure feels it.)

And it is harder to make tasty, varied veggie meals unless you have real cooking skills. Even the all-vegetable meals of my father's childhood were seasoned with grease or pork fat. Fewer people cook anymore, period, and even fewer cook well. If you're buying prepared food, you'll pay a premium for vegetarian, if you can find it at all, and your choices are drastically limited.

I'm guessing that most people who are vegetarians for the long-term structure their lives to allow for the time and attention needed. That doesn't necessarily say anything about their economic class but it does imply a range of choices usually associated with a middle-class or above upbringing.

On preview: What jayder said.
posted by vetiver at 7:54 PM on July 13, 2006


As someone mentioned above, many Indians are vegetarian due to their religion and not to their economical status.
posted by liquorice at 8:13 PM on July 13, 2006


...and we're talking about a country with almost (?) a billion people here.
posted by liquorice at 8:14 PM on July 13, 2006


I would say wealthy people in America or Europe are more likely to be vegetarian, but the opposite is true in other regions where meat is more of a luxury. I would argue that religions with roots in Asia are more vegetarian because local conditions don't suport large livestock industries. There aren't enough cows to feed India, and I think that's more a cause than an effect of the religious vegetarianism in India. There are a lot of cows in America, so meat is relatively plentiful. Not eating meat is more of a choice than a necessity in America, so it's more often wealthier people who are vegetarian.

Which I think is interesting, because a vegetarian diet is cheaper. This is easy to see. Walk into any restaurant and look at the cheapest meals on the menu. Most likely they're vegetarian. Now look at the most expensive meals. Most likely they're meat-heavy. Vegetarian diets can be expensive, especially if you're trying to make everything a substitute for meat rather than its own meal, but vegetables are generally cheaper than meat because they're cheaper to produce, cheaper to transport, and cheaper to store. In the simplest terms, animals eat vegetables, so the cost of animals has to be greater than the cost of their food. Veggie burgers are expensive. Fake chicken is expensive. But rice is cheap.
posted by scottreynen at 8:56 PM on July 13, 2006


I think what you should be asking is whether vegetarianism correlates with wealth or socioeconomic status, rather than whether those things are the basis for or the starting point for cultivating vegetarianism. A subtle difference in the way the question is asked may yield more useful answers, with real data as opposed to opinions.
posted by limeonaire at 9:06 PM on July 13, 2006


but by living as "gutter punks," they are actually exhibiting, in a kind of perverse way, a bourgeouis ideology, so they confirm the view that vegetarianism is primarily a middle- and upper-class phenomenon.

They don't choose to be poor. They do, however, choose to not eat meat. And I suppose they also choose not to shower.

The point I'm pointing at is that I know a lot of poor people who are vegetarian, a lot of middle class people who are vegetarian, and in the factors they have to weigh annual income is a foreign concern.

But limeonaire is right. You're only going to get opinions on this one.
posted by Homeskillet Freshy Fresh at 9:33 PM on July 13, 2006


Growing up, I thought vegetarians were crazy people. If you have the means to eat meat and you chose not to eat it, something was wrong with you. Part of that comes from growing up in a large family, part of it is growing up in a lower/working class neighborhood and most of it is cultural. I come from a culture known to take advantage of every single part of the pig. Pig feet or chitlins, anyone?

The only time you didn't eat meat was when there was no meat to eat.
posted by SoulOnIce at 9:35 PM on July 13, 2006


Piggy-backing on limeonaire and jessamyn's distinctions, there is a difference between being a vegetarian and having a vegetarian diet. Having a vegetarian diet can include wanting meat, but being unable to afford it. So certainly there are people all over the U.S. and in the east who are relatively low in socio-economic status who eat vegetarian diets. (I remember my father telling me about times when his family was happy because it could afford meat.)

Of the people who are vegetarian by choice, I'd volunteer the observation that while they all socio-economic groups are represented, they tend not to cluster around the poor, the middle class, or the upper class. The cluster seems to me to be between the middle and upper classes, with maybe a lean slightly more toward the middle class. Perhaps sometimes this can be explained by thinking "I may not be able to eat at the best of the best, but I can still make my dining distinctive." (Of course, there are tons of health and ethical reasons too, but this might be part of the motivation.)
posted by ontic at 9:36 PM on July 13, 2006


Given that popular vegetarianism is a recent phenomenon (say, the last 10-20 years), it's really just a matter of people wanting to be special or different. And they find that through not eating meat...like humans have ever since they (a) were divinely created or (b) evolved from apes.

I don't think it has anything to do with wealth. And it's not so much economic class as it is social orientation that matters.
posted by BradNelson at 9:52 PM on July 13, 2006


I did a quick Google Scholar search and came up with a couple of things.

First (abstract only): "This article is based on a six-year survey of first year undergraduates and their meat consumption. ... Age, political inclination and social class appear to have had little bearing on meat consumption."

Second (abstract only): "A demographic and social profile was compiled for 150 vegetarians and 150 nonvegetarians who were matched for age and sex. ... No differences were observed in the cultural, ethnic, or familial background of the groups. Vegetarians were less influenced by parents and traditional religions, were slightly less well educated, and were employed in less-skilled occupations."

Third: "The prevalence of and the interdependencies among [certain socio-economic variables] were examined in 1930 men and 2204 women aged 19 to 85 who participated in the Dutch National Food Consumption Survey 1987-1988. ... In the highest SES class ... more subjects followed a dietary rule (five vs two per cent), such as a vegetarian diet..."

Fourth (abstract only):It is concluded that vegetarianism, while remaining very much a minority option, is increasing steadily in the UK population, although the rate of increase appears to vary by such factors as age, gender and socio-economic category." (Abstract does not provide any further details.)

Fifth (book; full text): "People who choose vegetarianism may also differ from the rest of the population in other ways that influence health. For example, Western vegetarians tend to be of relatively high socioeconomic status."

Sixth (abstract only): "Data from a random sample of 420 adult U.S. residents showed that 5.2 percent considered themselves vegetarian. ... None of the social structural variables [gender, race, education, age, rural childhood] had a direct influence on vegetarianism as a dietary choice." However, "[b]lacks were more likely than Whites to adhere to the beliefs that vegetarianism helps prevent cruelty to farm animals, is beneficial to personal health, and is beneficial to the environment", and "[t]he strongest predictor of vegetarianism as a dietary choice was the belief that vegetarianism is beneficial to the environment."

Seventh (full text): "The pattern of vegetarianism is also strongly related to social class..." See Table 4.

Eighth (full-text, pdf): "Social class appears to have a substantial influence on meat consumption. Those in laborer occupations eat both more beef and total meat than those in either service or professional occupations. Furthermore, education is inversely related to beef and total meat consumption (i.e., people with more education eat less beef and total meat). Interestingly, income does not influence total meat consumption. Beef consumption, however, does appear to rise with income, which may possibly be explained by the price of beef relative to other types of food. Taken together, these findings support the argument that eating habits reflect an individual’s class position."
posted by robcorr at 10:27 PM on July 13, 2006 [2 favorites]


Wow, look at robcorr pulling out the hard data! Cool.

BradNelson: your (b) should be: diverged from a common ancestor shared with apes. Homo sapiens (modern day humans) did not evolve from apes.
posted by ontic at 10:42 PM on July 13, 2006


I wish, ontic. Most of those links are only to the abstracts, and there's no way to see whether their methodology stacks up. Besides, they contradict each other a bit.

But if someone wanted to really look into this, those links might provide a reasonable starting point.

One interesting tidbit I came across while looking at those things was that apparently a lot of vegetarians say they miss bacon more than other meats. I guess it's got a strong flavour/smell that you're unlikely to forget, so it makes sense, but it surprised me anyway.
posted by robcorr at 10:49 PM on July 13, 2006


Most people in most parts of the world are mostly vegetarian. That's because it is far cheaper to grow and eat rice and beans than to raise and eat animals. The fast food industry has done a very good job of making the raising and eating of animals very cheap. So in industrialized societies, people see vegetarian diets as a luxury (not just because meat is cheap, but also because we produce imitation meats which are not).

People of a lower economic status don't have the luxury of choosing their diets. They eat what they can get. In most parts of the world, that's rice and beans. In industrialized societies, that's low-grade meat. People with more education and wealth are the ones who are able to examine what impact their diet has on their lives, nutritiously and ethically. So, yes. You will probably find that there is a correlation between socioeconomic status and vegetarianism in industrialized societies. But a vegetarian diet is less expensive.
posted by team lowkey at 12:15 AM on July 14, 2006


Before I moved to China, I had the naive notion that vegetarian food here would be plentiful, due to generally lower incomes and a history of Buddhism. What I found, though, was exactly the opposite. Many temples do have an adjoining vege cafe, but mainly for monks, and other than that, vege places are all very expensive and cater to expats. People here eat meat constantly, it seems, and in every dish - the very poor just eat cheaper and perhaps less appealing types of meat than the rich.
posted by piers at 1:40 AM on July 14, 2006


Comparing the American vegetarian to the Vegetarian in India, or elsewhere is a futile attempt to find firm answers. An analogy would be comparing the reasons in terms of why Americans ride bicycles and why those in India ride them. Completely different reasons. Eating a vegetarian diet IS expensive, if you want a nice variety. I have been a vegetarian for many years, I was quite poor when I decided to eliminate meat from my diet (I was in college) but I am not poor now. I don't think that there is a solid correlation within the realm of vegetarianism and socio-economic factors. To compare Corey Feldman and Isaac Newton or Pam Anderson and Ben Franklin on any plane seems laughable..until you understand they were/are vegetarian. As individuals, we all have different reasons for our actions. Some may not eat meat for ethical reasons, some for health reasons. I will say though, in this day and age, I don't think people do it for financial reasons. I am sure there might be some, but not many. It seems that chicken and some meats are pretty cheap, so financial reasons do not seem logical. A meat eater would probably buy chicken and spare one or two other options in order to save money. So, I don't think that vegetarians necessarily fit into one socio-economic category.
posted by peglam at 3:06 AM on July 14, 2006


To compare Corey Feldman and Isaac Newton or Pam Anderson and Ben Franklin on any plane seems laughable

Actually, that's not so laughable. They all belong to the elite class of relatively wealthy people that can have the luxury of being picky about what they eat.
posted by jaded at 4:24 AM on July 14, 2006


People I know who are trying to live free (by which I mean squat a building for shelter and not buy anything) get most of their food by skipping (aka dumpster-diving in the US). It is pretty dangerous to eat meat that has come from such a place (unless it's in something like a sandwich made that day), therefore for that (very poor) sector of society, almost full-time vegetarianism is virtually inescapable.

However, most of my friends who live that way are freegans (vegan except for free food) and therefore eat meat when it's offered to them.
posted by pollystark at 4:24 AM on July 14, 2006


A fun fact: 2/3 of the world's population is vegetarian, but not by choice. It's due to poverty and meat being an expensive option.
posted by mathowie at 4:27 AM on July 14, 2006


2/3 of the world's population is vegetarian, but not by choice

I think this is an interesting distinction, which largely depends on how you define "choice." Much of that 2/3 holds some religious conviction that eating meat is wrong. So they don't really have the option of eating meat, and they've chosen not to eat it. If I decide to not fly on a unicorn out of principle, is that a choice? It probably seems like a choice to me, but not to others who see that unicorns don't exist.

On the other end, many vegetarians-by-choice no longer have or make that choice. When you become vegetarian, your body gradually loses the ability to efficiently process meat. If you go out and eat a steak after being vegetarian for five years, you'll almost certainly get sick as a result. And there's also the psychological baggage that always encourages us to do what we've done before.

I've been vegetarian for ten years now, but I don't wake up each morning and think "Should I eat meat today? I chose ... no." I don't consciously make that choice at all any more than a lifelong Republican chooses to vote for the only Republican candidate or a man makes the choice to go into the men's restroom. Once you start to think about a choice as a part of your identity, are you really making the choice?
posted by scottreynen at 5:48 AM on July 14, 2006


Much of that 2/3 holds some religious conviction that eating meat is wrong.

Is that true? Surely most of that 2/3 holds religious convictions that eating certain kinds of meat is wrong, or that eating meat slaughtered in certain ways is wrong. The main "vegetarian" religion that springs to mind is Buddhism, but if I remember correctly the rules are different in different regions, and many Buddhists have no doctrinal objection to eating certain meats.
posted by robcorr at 6:01 AM on July 14, 2006


I think it's important to note that vegetarianism is seen differently not only by lower vs. middle/upper class Americans, but on a broader scale where America's general prosperity is witnessed by countries with more recent histories of economic struggle. When I studied abroad in Prague several years back, my vegetarian friends and I definitely grappled with the Czechs' love all things pork and beef. In turn, our no-meat diet automatically translated as just another facet of our spoiled, uncompromising Americanism, an impression held even among the cosmopolitan Prague college students. I think American vegetarianism was particularly galling to the Czechs in light of their love-hate relationship with all the McDonalds and KFC establishments that now litter their pretty cobblestone streets.
posted by zoomorphic at 7:17 AM on July 14, 2006


It appears, based on the comments here, that some of the distinctions in American vegetarianism may be regional and cultural without being class-based.

I live in Portland, Oregon, for example. I constantly see people buying all veggie meals at natural food stores and paying with food stamps. The Pacific Northwest is very friendly to hippie granola lifestyles. There are lots fo not-very-well educated people who spout ideals about eating for the earth that they may not even understand. It makes for an interesting contrast with all the hunters that also live in this region.

Perhaps this cultural phenomenon is less prevalent in the deep south. Here in Portland, a bunch of high end southern-style restaurants have opened up in the past few years with exotic foods made from pig parts local people wouldn't even know you could eat until a fancy chef gave them the go ahead.

Also, re: a comment upthread:

To compare Corey Feldman and Isaac Newton or Pam Anderson and Ben Franklin on any plane seems laughable

Actually, that's not so laughable. They all belong to the elite class of relatively wealthy people that can have the luxury of being picky about what they eat.


Ben Franklin was a poor apprentice from a large family when he became a vegetarian. By the time he entered " the elite class of relatively wealthy people" he was eating meat again.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:19 AM on July 14, 2006


jayder's comments bring to mind this Cat and Girl cartoon. "Maybe luxury is not needing convenience."

When I first became a vegetarian, I ate the meat sandwiches at my food service job that would've otherwise gone in the trash at the end of the day. Now that I've got more resources and I'm a better cook, I'd give it a pass. But I think overall a vegetarian diet is cheaper if you're comparing similar qualities of food. I mean that if I were to cook with meat the way I do now without it, I'd spend more. Same thing back when I had poor cooking and meal-planning skills, except that the nutritional quality of my diet was much worse back then. I could also argue that my vegetarian diet is much cheaper in the long run because I'm more likely to avoid health problems associated with a meat-heavy diet.

The woman who cleaned my old office was an African-American Jehovah's Witness in her sixties, and vegetarian mainly for health reasons. There was similar motivation, I think, with a storefront vegetarian joint in an African-American neighborhood on Chicago's south side--I can't remember the name.

But even in the US, there are religious and cultural reasons for vegetarianism:

...if you ask Brother Tsadakeeyah Ben Israel, head chef of Chicago's Soul Vegetarian restaurant, the food he prepares has its roots in the earliest scriptures, all the way back to the book of Genesis.

Ben Israel, a member of the African Hebrew Israelite Community of Jerusalem, says that what is called Eden in the Old Testament was actually in Africa. Israelites lived in Eden and were vegetarian in accordance with Scripture, he says. "Our forefathers' original diet was vegetarian, and since then we have come to believe that a vegetarian diet coincides with the highest form of spirituality."

posted by hydrophonic at 8:33 AM on July 14, 2006


"Second, being a vegetarian is an expensive luxury. Yes, it may be true that the ingredients to make vegetarian meals can be cheaper than meat-based meals, but it is more time-consuming to plan meals in a culture where so many readily available culinary options revolve around meat. It is a luxury to be able to inform yourself about appetizing ways of preparing various vegetarian meals. The poor often do not have the time, the information resources, or the transportation that are required for a good, healthy vegetarian diet."

Man, that's absolute bullshit. How long does it take me to plan a meal of rice and beans? Two seconds, and half an hour to cook it (max). Of cheese sandwiches? Of pesto and pasta? Of udon? A veggie stirfry? Two seconds and half an hour to cook. The ingredients are all cheap and plentiful.
Out on the road, can I get vegetarian fast food? Yeah, really cheaply at Taco Bell and at Subway. Even many McDonalds have a (sucky) veggie burger.
What I will say is that rural poor who are not farmers will have trouble finding enough good quality vegetables to support a veggie diet. One of the things above that was said that isn't quite true is that the transportation cost for vegetables is lower. The primary reason that European (and by extention American) diets switched to being meat based was that meat was easier to transport, because you can move live animals. It's still easier to find meat in a lot of places than really good vegetables, but that isn't enough to make vegetarianism untennable.
I know, having been both extremely poor rurally and extremely poor here in a college town, and always a vegetarian.
posted by klangklangston at 8:57 AM on July 14, 2006


One of the things above that was said that isn't quite true is that the transportation cost for vegetables is lower. The primary reason that European (and by extention American) diets switched to being meat based was that meat was easier to transport, because you can move live animals.

Animals are cheaper to transport than vegetables, which are cheaper to transport than meat (all because of how hard it is to keep from going bad). I was under the impression that livestock in America is commonly slaughtered before transport. Is that not the case?
posted by scottreynen at 9:52 AM on July 14, 2006


klangklangston, you made me think of another wrinkle to this discussion when you attempted to refute my "bullshit" comment.

There are a couple of other reasons I think poor people find it hard to give up meat -- especially greasy, high-fat, or fast-food meats.

(1) Those meals are more satisfying than the veggie stir-fry, cheese sandwiches, and pesto-and-pasta that you celebrated in your comment. Meats, especially grease- and fat-laden meats, take longer to digest and therefore keep the person satisfied for a longer time. For the poor person, that matters. (An eating disorder specialist my wife took a psychologist from in college explained the effect of saturated fat in coating the stomach and keeping the eater satisfied for a longer period of time.)

(2) Further, I would argue that the poor, not having the assurance of regular meals that the rest of us take for granted, would be more likely not to engage in long-term, healthful, temperate eating habits reflected in a vegetarian diet. For someone who is living in conditions of scarcity, high-calorie, high-fat meats are going to be more appealing to these people on an instinctive level in allowing them to "store up" calories in the form of fat. "Pesto and pasta" is less likely to be appealing to the poor for this reason.
posted by jayder at 1:10 PM on July 14, 2006


"Those meals are more satisfying than the veggie stir-fry, cheese sandwiches, and pesto-and-pasta that you celebrated in your comment."

Subjective, and really ignorant— it's incredibly easy to get high fat, high protein meals while being vegetarian. It's harder if you want to be a vegan, but mozarrella sticks are pretty easy to make. As is fried anything, especially with an egg-and-cheese batter.
And, for less than a dollar, I can make a goddamned fantastic cheese sandwich (including the use of good butter) that will kill a fat man.

"Further, I would argue that the poor, not having the assurance of regular meals that the rest of us take for granted, would be more likely not to engage in long-term, healthful, temperate eating habits reflected in a vegetarian diet."

Further, you're talking to a poor person. One who has been both poor and vegetarian his entire life. The idea of long-term, healthful, temperate eating habits and the poor unable to comprehend them is incredibly presumptive bullshit of the first degree.

The primary reason why most poor people are not vegetarian is cultural, not economic. The dominant culture of this country is meat-eating, thus the dominant culture of poor people is meat-eating.

But do condescend again to tell me just how us poor people can't be vegetarians, or how vegetarianism is always healthy, or any other of your misconceptions about diet and money.
posted by klangklangston at 2:56 PM on July 14, 2006


hydrophonic: It's Soul Vegetarian East. Part of a chain, apparently (who knew?).

/uselesslinkfilter. I want to go get some of those weird fried protien nuggets, now. Who's driving?
posted by ruby.aftermath at 3:48 PM on July 14, 2006


klangklangston, you really need to get over yourself. The fact that my comments are not true of your own special experience of vegetarianism does not mean that they are incorrect. I was making a generalization borne out by experience. The righteous fury you've worked yourself into is comical. Do you think you own this topic?

I never said poor people can't be vegetarians. I was making a statement about vegetarianism being a largely middle- and upper-class phenomenon---which it clearly is---for easy-to-understand economic and practical reasons.

And I never said vegetarianism is always healthy. But it is, more often than not, chosen by people who have the luxury of carefully planning their diets, with a careful eye to nutrition, a luxury the poor often do not have. While you're sitting in your hovel, pigging out on cheese sandwiches, a greater number of vegetarians are planning their diets carefully.

I'd be embarrassed to have misread someone's comments as patently as you've misread mine. And my comments were made out of sympathy to the poor --- that you take them as an insult is strange.
posted by jayder at 5:12 PM on July 14, 2006


"I was making a statement about vegetarianism being a largely middle- and upper-class phenomenon---which it clearly is---for easy-to-understand economic and practical reasons."

I'm not insulted, I'm just pointing out that your repeated statements (like "it clearly is") are bullshit and unsupported, and that the tone with which you are making them has the same condescending whiff of cultural imperalism as discussions on the savage practices of the Moslem. Poor people can be and are vegetarians for various reasons, and there is not (in my most likely quite a bit broader experience) a correlation between income and vegetarianism on the whole in America. To assert repeatedly that there is, based on stereotypes and uncorroborated theories, is bullshit. I'm sorry if being told so hurts your feelings, but vegetarians are a pretty diverse bunch, all told.
posted by klangklangston at 6:02 PM on July 14, 2006


"But it is, more often than not, chosen by people who have the luxury of carefully planning their diets, with a careful eye to nutrition, a luxury the poor often do not have."

Or, in other words, if you could prove this statement you already would have. More often than not, your "answers" have relied on what you believe to be true about the general Platonic vegetarian, and do not reflect eating habits in America.
posted by klangklangston at 6:03 PM on July 14, 2006


Actually, that's not so laughable. They all belong to the elite class of relatively wealthy people that can have the luxury of being picky about what they eat.


Pam Anderson was a vegetarian before she was wealthy. Corey Feldman, I have no idea. I believe he claims he never experienced wealth as his parents stole his money. " I had earned a million dollars by the time I was 13 or 14. But when I went to my bank accounts to see what my parents had put away for my future, there was $40,000 left. My father was my manager, so he controlled my money. When I went to sign the emancipation papers, all three parties had to sign. My mother agreed, but my father said he wouldn't unless I compensated him for the time invested in my career. He asked for my last $40,000. So I had to pay him off and, in essence, start fresh.
Just a point...
posted by peglam at 5:33 AM on July 16, 2006


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