Vegetarianism: The New Green?

Articles
August 27, 2010

Vegetarianism: The New Green?

Whether it’s the popularity of farmers’ markets, an offshoot of recessionary spending or a cultural movement, vegetarian cuisine is in vogue.

Whether it’s the popularity of farmers’ markets, an offshoot of recessionary spending or a cultural movement, vegetarian cuisine is in vogue.

Even celebrity chef Mario Batali, known for his love of meat (his parents Armandino and Marilyn Batali founded the fabulous Seattle-based Salumi Artisan Cured Meats), is on the vegetable wagon, recently announcing that the newest cookbook he’s penned -- “Molto Gusto” -- is vegetarian. Batali was recently quoted in Food & Wine, saying, “Protein has been intensely over-represented on the plate. Now, the garden should be the main drag for main courses.”

Batali’s book is based on recipes from Otto, his Manhattan enoteca and pizzeria, where vegetables dominate the menu. Other fabulous vegetarian restaurants have come into vogue recently across the country from Manhattan’s Dirt Candy to Napa’s Ubuntu. This new generation of sleek, modern restaurants offering meat-free fine food is changing the face of vegetarian food. Prompted by culinary innovation of leading chefs, interest in healthy lifestyles and a growing belief that carnivorous cuisine is bad for the environment, this movement may gradually make its way into the kitchens of Americans and impact the way we shop supermarkets.

Vegetarianism in the United States has been slowly creeping up in numbers over the past decade. A 2008 study, “Vegetarianism in America,” published by Vegetarian Times, noted that 3.2 percent of U.S. adults, or 7.3 million people, follow a vegetarian-based diet. The Vegetarian Resource Group’s (VRG) 2009 poll, conducted by Harris Interactive, found that 3.4 percent of the U.S. adult population was vegetarian, up from 2.8 percent in 2003. VRG notes that manufacturers and retailers marketing vegetarian and vegan foods should also look at the much larger number of people interested in these items, as well as those actually vegetarian. With five percent of females aged 18-34 being vegetarian, and 12 percent of females aged 18-34 not eating meat, this makes a strong argument for developing products for this demographic.

New technologies have also been introduced for consumers interested in vegging out. HappyCow, an online repository of vegetarian and vegan stores and eateries (www.happycow.net), has useful mobile apps for owners of Android and Apple devices as well as those running Palm’s WebOS. The HappyCow VeginOut Guide uses GPS to deliver a list of vegetarian and vegan-friendly stores and restaurants nearby along with the distance, and user reviews. On iPhone, the app is called VegOut, which at this time only includes restaurants.