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The economic downturn may have a positive effect on the meat-heavy American diet. f you eat meat but suddenly find yourself bypassing rib-eyes and tenderloins and heading straight for the chickpeas and lentils, you may be among the growing ranks of recession-bred flexitarians—semi-vegetarians who dabble in carnivorous cuisine from time to time.
Meat is the single most expensive thing Americans eat, and in tough times it’s one of the first things to go. Fifty-one percent of shoppers surveyed by the American Meat Institute say they have changed their meat purchasing relative to the economy. Despite the recent increase in home cooking, the average family only prepares 3.9 evening meals that include a meat item, down from 4.2 meals last year.
The publishing industry, meanwhile, is embracing consumers’ move away from meat. Lisa Regul, publicity manager for Ten Speed Press, an independent publisher with a long backlist of vegetarian cookbooks, considers this the golden era for such cookbooks. In response to what her company perceives as a big change in public opinion about the “traditional” American diet, and especially a new desire to reduce meat consumption, Ten Speed has several vegetarian cookbooks slated for publication this year. One in particular, Almost Meatless, is designed for people who would like to use meat as an enhancement, rather than the centerpiece, of a meal to minimize the grocery bill without sacrificing flavor and protein.