84 Percent of Vegetarians Go Back to Eating Meat

Photo: Fox

The lure of the cheeseburger is hard to resist. According to a large study of American dietary habits, 84 percent of vegetarians and vegans eventually go back to eating meat. The study was funded by advocacy group the Humane Research Council, which partnered with Harris Interactive to survey the meat-eating habits of 11,399 adults ages 17 and older.

A few of the more interesting findings:

  • 2 percent of American adults are current vegetarians or vegans, 10 percent are former vegetarians/vegans, and 88 percent have never been vegetarian or vegan. 
  • More than half of the ex-vegetarians/vegans gave up on their veggie ways within their first year; a third went back to meat within three months.
  • The average age that people said they first decided to give up meat was 34.
  • About a third of ex-vegetarians and vegans said they were living with a non-vegetarian/vegan significant other when they started eating meat again.  

So what nudges people into sticking with their veggie intentions, and what makes them abandon them? About two thirds of the former vegetarians and vegans said they rather abruptly changed their dietary habits, giving up meat and/or animal products within days or weeks of their initial decision to do so. Maybe, if this is a lifestyle you intend to stick with, it would be smarter if you make the transition gradually. Also, current vegetarians and vegans were more likely to name multiple reasons for avoiding meat and/or animal products, whereas many of the exes only reported one motivational factor, usually health. 

Finally, 43 percent of the former vegetarians and vegans said they had a hard time sticking to a “pure” diet, suggesting that an all-or-nothing approach might be too difficult for newbies. No need to abandon the whole thing over some drunkenly consumed chicken nuggets.