Mr. Rogers was one. So was George Harrison. Natalie Portman is one. So is Jenna Jameson.



These celebrities are among a long list of famous vegans and vegetarians. And younger actors and musicians, such as Miley Cyrus and Carrie Underwood, seem to be part of a growing number of younger people turning away from eating meat.


Mr. Rogers was one. So was George Harrison. Natalie Portman is one. So is Jenna Jameson.

These celebrities are among a long list of famous vegans and vegetarians. And younger actors and musicians, such as Miley Cyrus and Carrie Underwood, seem to be part of a growing number of younger people turning away from eating meat.

But are vegetarianism and veganism just a trend?

Yes and no, say experts and local people who choose the meat-free lifestyle.

Bucking the trend

Lauren Eadline, 22, of Utica, N.Y., believes she and her friends who attempt to live vegan lifestyles represent a group who are bucking trends rather than following them.

“We’re not really trendy people,” says Eadline, who has been vegan for about a year. “We’ve always been this way. We’re activists really more than anything.”

The activism comes from the reasons behind Eadline’s decision to live her life meat free.

“My biggest problem is corporate control of the food industry, mostly the meat industry, where for a million reasons – human rights, animal rights and environmental rights – are most trampled on,” Eadline says.

When she’s confident animals’ rights weren’t infringed upon, she will – and does – eat animal products, such as eggs and cheese. Her work with Old Path Farms in Sauquoit, N.Y., recently has afforded her the chance to eat products she believes are produced in an animal-friendly way. In fact, she says, eating this way is almost more important than eating a strictly vegan diet.

“I’d much rather eat a chicken egg from a place I know and respect than some of the vegan products that I don’t know where they came from and could possibly be harmful to the environment in the way they’re created.”

A cultural shift

Peter Corn, owner of Peter’s Cornucopia – a New Hartford, N.Y., grocer that caters to people’s special food needs — specifically vegan and vegetarian — says he hasn’t seen a growing trend in the number of young people shopping for vegan/vegetarian products, but he is aware of why different generations make the switch to meatless lifestyles.

“The older generation tends to do it more for health reasons, but more of the college kids tend to be more concerned about animal rights,” Corn said.

John Cunningham, consumer research manager for the Vegetarian Resource Group, says there hasn’t been a statistical increase in the number of college-age people making the choice to turn to vegetarianism, but 40 percent of college students are requesting vegetarian options in their dining halls.

That development among younger people is one that that parallels a national tendency, said Cunningham, adding that since 1994 the amount of adults 18 and older who never eat meat has doubled.

“I think it’s part of the general cultural shift in our society toward acceptance of vegetarians,” Cunningham said. “In the ’70s and ’80s you had to be strong-willed and an activist to even consider it. In the ’80s, people would ask you why you would want to do that. Now it’s, ‘Wow, that’s so great. I wish I could do that.’”

Protecting animals’ rights

Twenty-nine year-old Erin Thurston is one young person who is doing that. She made the choice to go meat free about 15 years ago after doing a school report about the treatment of animals during meat processing.

“How they actually killed the animals is so inhumane — skinning animals while they’re still alive. Also how the animals are treated before hand, I couldn’t live with that,” said Thurston, who works at Peter’s Cornucopia.

Eadline and Thurston’s concern for animal rights is typical of a younger generation’s desire to be meat free, said Cunningham.

“A lot of talk about the production of our food affects our environment or hinders the rights of animals,” he said. “I think young people tend to be sensitive to that more so than the general population.”

Who's eating the beef?

The results of a 2006 poll of adults 18 and older by the Vegetarian Resource Group show how Americans are eating (and not eating).

Percentage of age groups who never eat meat, fish or fowl:

- 9 percent: 45-to 54-year-olds
- 5 percent 18-to 24-year-olds
- 2.3 percent never eat meat, poultry, fish/seafood (vegetarian)
- 1.4 percent never eat meat, poultry, fish/seafood, dairy products/eggs (vegan, except for possibly honey)

Vegetarians defined

It’s not as simple as meat or no meat. Here are a few definitions of the various kinds of vegetarians.

• Pescatarian: Used to describe those who abstain from eating all meat and animal flesh with the exception of fish. Although the word is not commonly used, more and more people are adopting this kind of diet, usually for health reasons or as a stepping stone to a fully vegetarian diet.

• Flexitarian/semi-vegetarian: Flexitarian is a term recently coined to describe those who eat a mostly vegetarian diet, but occasionally eat meat.

• Vegetarian (Lacto-ovo-vegetarian): When most people think of vegetarians, they think of lacto-ovo-vegetarians. People who do not eat beef, pork, poultry, fish, shellfish or animal flesh of any kind, but do eat eggs and dairy products.

• Lacto-vegetarian: A vegetarian who does not eat eggs, but does eat dairy products.
Ovo-vegetarian: People who do not eat meat or dairy products but do eat eggs.

• Vegan: Does not eat meat or eggs, dairy products or processed foods containing these or other animal-derived ingredients such as gelatin. Many vegans also refrain from eating foods that are made using animal products though they may not contain animal products in the finished product, such as sugar and some wines.