Meat Math

The idea of vegetarianism is very controversial in this country.  Though 40% of India is vegetarian (399 Million people) we are a meat-eating nation, only 3% of the US is vegetarian (7.3 Million).  There are many reasons people choose to be vegetarian; among the top reasons: personal health issues, animal rights, world food supply, religious beliefs, sustainable agriculture, among others. (The picture above, comparing meat eating with cannibalism is an animal rights take from a recent PETA campaign).

“Every year, Americans eat 35 Million cows (27 billion pounds of meat), 115 Million pigs, and 9 Billion Chickens and Turkeys.” – The New Yorker (from the review of “Eating Animals”)

  1. How many cows, pigs, and chickens/turkeys does each American eat on average? (there is a link to the population of US below)? (Remember to account for vegetarians).
  2. Explain how you calculate your number.
  3. Are you surprised by this number?  If you thought about what you ate for a week and multiplied it by 52 to equal a year – are you above or below the average?
  4. Do a food log of what you eat in a week. Keep very detailed log.  If you are interested, you can also do some calorie counting. What are you eating?


Other Activities:

  • Have students debate the reasoning for vegetarianism.  In groups, which reasons do they resonate with? Which seem extreme? What questions do they have about each of the reasons?  What more do they want to know?

Vegetarian Reading – Interested in getting freaked out, I mean, elucidated about what food production of meat means, read these books:



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