McDonald’s, Tyson Watch as Meat Sales Drop

McDonald's and Tyson Chicken Sales Drop as People Eat Less Meat

Get out your maracas and get ready to do a happy dance. The nation’s top-earning fast-food restaurant and leading meat producer both saw lower sales this quarter.

While McDonald’s is anxious to point the finger at the bad economy, Tyson at least called it what it was and said that the demand for meat was “lower than expected.”

Perhaps Tyson shouldn’t have “expected” so much revenue. Sales of chicken and pork have been on the decline since 2007, and beef sales have been sliding for the past two decades. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture (pdf) had predicted that meat consumption would fall again in 2012, down more than 12 percent from five years ago. McDonald’s can shout “bad economy” until it’s hoarse, but as food writer Mark Bittman points out, “we’re eating less meat because we want to eat less meat.”

A survey found that 50 percent of Americans are familiar with the Meatless Monday campaign and that 27.5 percent are actively reducing their meat consumption.

Concerns about cruelty to animals, environmental devastation, and health problems are the main reasons people cite for reducing their meat consumption. The process of factory farming is so cruel that it prompted Paul McCartney to comment in an exposé that he narrated for PETA, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.” The National Audubon Society, the Worldwatch Institute, the Sierra Club, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Al Gore’s Live Earth all maintain that meat production damages the environment more than just about any other activity. And vegetarians and vegans enjoy lower rates of many diseases and longer life expectancies than their meat-eating counterparts.

It isn’t surprising, then, that sales of soy products are on the rise. Dean Foods is the nation’s largest dairy distributor, but it’s the company’s division that markets soy products that has been enjoying marked sales increases—so much so that Dean is spinning off that division into its own company to expand it further.

Are people sick of McCruelty? Tired of Tyson’s torture? Or perhaps just ready to quit feeling sick and tired and start eating less meat?

Whatever the case, I think this calls for a celebration. How about a real happy meal: one without dead animals in it?

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by ChicagoGeek

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