01/03/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Recession Makes People Eat Less Meat, But More Fast Food

Too bad Johnathan Swift died before the Internet came about.

This will thrill PETA right out of their naugahyde pumps: doing what no bag of thrown flour could ever hope to accomplish, the recession has caused the average American to cut their meat consumption. According to a survey conducted by Parade magazine (Yes, the cheesy insert in the Sunday paper. Yes, I read it. Shut up.), nearly 60% of respondents say they have reduced the amount of meat they eat due to rising food costs.

In an unrelated but strangely appropriate survey, apparently the recession has also caused an uptick in business at fast food restaurants.

Conclusion: A t-bone steak at $12.99/lb is a budget-breaker, but two meat patties on a sesame bun with special sauce for $1.79 is dinner the way mama used to make. There's something wrong with this mentality and I'm not just saying that because I'm a vegetarian. Somewhere Michael Pollan just had a seizure.

In a country where affordable and accessible health care was one of the biggest issues in the recent presidential election, it seems unwise to be trading whole foods for processed ones -- especially those with a shelf life of 12+ years. If we want to encourage people to practice preventative health care by eating better and taking care of themselves, then pricing fast food cheaper than the real deal seems downright counterproductive. Where's our health food bailout? But perhaps hitting people in their wallet is the best way to make them sit up and pay attention.

For me, as you might expect, I have tried both extremes of the meat continuum. I've been fully vegan. I've also done the Primal Blueprint (also known as The Meat-and-Veg Diet.) And I've settled out somewhere in the middle -- a place I like to call "non-militant vegetarianism." Left to my own devices, I don't generally eat meat. But exceptions will be made for cases like wicked PMS, a bite of my husband's dinner at a fancy restaurant or a special dish made by a foreign friend. I also don't waste my breath trying to convert others to my veggie ways. This will almost guarantee the derision of hard-core vegetarians, but to be perfectly honest, I don't care if you eat meat. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that there are lots of ways to be healthy and I don't have all the answers.

But if you are looking for ways to cut down on the grocery bill -- and who isn't, considering that food prices have risen 7% over the past year and are expected to go up another 4% in 2009 -- then reducing your meat consumption is a good fix. In fact, a whole new trendy name -- Flexitarian -- has just been popularized for folks who eat less meat but don't eschew it (get it?) entirely. There is a way to have your meat and eat it too. Just don't replace it with a Big Mac.