Despite the significant progress made by vegetarian and vegan movements in recent decades, the majority of Americans are not willing to give up their meat-based diets in the near future, according to an exclusive poll conducted by Redfield and Wilton Strategies for Newsweek. The poll, which surveyed 1,500 eligible U.S. voters, revealed that most Americans regularly consume meat and believe it to be a healthy choice. Furthermore, they expressed the belief that the meat industry does not have a substantial negative impact on the climate.

The survey found that 81 percent of respondents eat meat at least once a week, with 10 percent consuming it only once or twice a month. Only 4 percent rarely ate meat, while 3 percent said they never consumed it.

In terms of health perceptions, 35 percent strongly agreed that eating meat is healthy, while 41 percent agreed and 17 percent neither agreed nor disagreed. Only 4 percent disagreed, and 1 percent strongly disagreed with the statement.

However, scientific evidence suggests that the consumption of red and processed meats, including beef, is associated with adverse health effects such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and premature death, as stated by the Harvard Health Publishing website.

Regarding the environmental impact, the poll revealed that 34 percent of respondents believed that reducing red meat consumption would help decrease global carbon emissions, while 40 percent disagreed. Twenty-six percent expressed uncertainty on the matter.

The meat industry, particularly cattle production, contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. According to a paper published in Nature Food, raising animals for food accounts for 57 percent of all food production carbon emissions, double the emissions produced by plant-based food production. Beef alone contributes to a quarter of food production emissions.

The environmental concerns arise from the extensive land required for animal feed production, deforestation for grazing, and transportation-related emissions. Additionally, livestock emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas, through their digestive processes.

The polling data indicated that younger individuals are more likely to believe that meat consumption negatively impacts the environment, with higher percentages in the 18-24, 25-34, and 35-44 age groups. Conversely, only 16 percent of 55-64-year-olds shared the same viewpoint.

As an alternative to traditional meat consumption, lab-grown meat, produced by cultivating animal tissue in a laboratory setting, has been proposed. This method has the potential to reduce carbon emissions associated with the meat supply chain, depending on the production process.

Lab-grown meat received support from President Joe Biden in a September 2022 executive order, where he highlighted the government’s commitment to investing in biotechnology for food security and exploring alternative food sources.

However, the poll indicated that lab-grown meat does not generate significant enthusiasm among Americans. Only 27 percent of respondents felt safe consuming lab-grown meat, while 25 percent expressed a willingness to eat it. In contrast, 55 percent stated that they would not feel safe consuming it, and 57 percent said they would not eat it.

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