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Mentions our favorite website,! Nice pro-veg slant on this one.

The group that made real men want to eat beef now wants to convince young girls that it's cool for them, too.

With about one million kids nationwide forsaking meat and actually eating their vegetables, America's cattlemen are trying to round up the strays and bring them back to the meat-eating herd.

"We're just trying to bring home the point that all foods fit into a healthy diet and, yes, that includes beef," said Mary Young, nutrition director for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

Teenagers are the fastest-growing group of vegetarians, according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). And young girls are more than twice as likely to stop eating meat as boys are, market researchers say.

To reach them, the cattlemen's group launched a Web site ( in December that touts healthy living, offers lots of tasty beef recipes, and makes educational kits available to teachers who might want to include lessons on beef in their curriculums.

The cattlemen have cause to worry. One in four teenagers considers vegetarianism "cool," according to Teenage Research Unlimited in Illinois. Their reasons vary, but many cite concern for animals, weight loss, and health for giving up meat, nutritionists say.

Two percent of 13- to 17-year-olds ate no meat, poultry or fish in 2000, up from 1.4 percent from 1995, reported Vegetarian Resource Group, a Baltimore-based nonprofit organization. Five percent ate no beef or pork in 2000.

PETA says the trend is bigger on college campuses, where from 15 to 20 percent of students say they're vegetarians.

For the cattlemen, it makes sense to try to brand these youngsters with product loyalty: In not too many years, they will be parents, and feeding their own little calves.

Part of the group's pitch is to warn youngsters, and their parents, of the dangers of a meatless diet. The cattlemen cite university research suggesting that youths who don't eat beef are more prone to poor health, low self-esteem, eating disorders, and even suicidal thoughts.

"Hogwash," said Michele Shuker, a nutritionist at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Though she's a beef-eater, she said, "One does not need beef to live a healthy life."

With record numbers of children suffering from obesity, "kids need to get a grip on portion size and get more physical activity," not load up on beef, she said.

To teens devoted to the cause, meat is a four-letter word.

"That's ridiculous," Laura Humpal, 18, of Spring City, said of the cattlemen's campaign. "I'm in fine health. I never get sick, and I've been a vegetarian since I was 8 and vegan [someone who doesn't eat any animal products, including eggs and dairy] since I was 14."

She has never liked meat and would never consider eating it, she said. To get all her vitamins and nutrients, she eats lots of green leafy vegetables and takes a Vitamin B-12 supplement.

Her friend Ashley Randolph, 17, of Phoenixville, loves meat but became a vegan three years ago and said she feels "lighter, cleaner, more energetic."

She doesn't think meat is necessary for a balanced diet: "You can definitely get by without it."

Such attitudes have the beef industry "running scared," said Bruce Friedrich, a PETA spokesman, "because kids are learning that if they're eating meat, they're promoting cruelty to animals and harming their own health."

With so many children forgoing meat, fish and fowl, 60 percent of the nation's schools offered vegetarian alternatives in 2001, up from 40 percent in 1999, according to the American School Food Service Association.

Students are asking for "fruits, vegetables and vegetarian items," said Erik Peterson, the group's director of media relations. "Teenage girls request salads."

The Lower Merion School District in Montgomery County offers a daily salad bar. And Kimberton Waldorf School in Chester County serves only vegetarian meals, for cost and food-safety reasons.

"I don't believe that meat is the be-all and end-all of nutrition," said Jennifer Keogh, codirector of Kimberton's lunch program. "There are kids eating hamburgers every night, but they're not having vegetables and fruit."

While experts say health concerns usually are only a minor factor in a teen's decision to stop eating meat, the result can be a more nutritious diet than the standard teen fare of burgers, fries and pizza.

A University of Minnesota study of 4,500 teenagers found that young vegetarians consumed more fruits and vegetables and less fast food, cholesterol and regular soda, and more folate, vitamin A, fiber and iron than their meat-eating peers did. However, they also consumed more diet soda and caffeine, and less Vitamin B-12 than nonvegetarians.

"The vegetarian teens were doing significantly better on things like fat intake and vegetable intake, which are just two predictors of long-term health," said Cheryl Perry, a coauthor of the study.

But the study also found that adolescent vegetarians were more likely to be dissatisfied with their bodies, to report dieting, and to have been told by a doctor that they had an eating disorder. They were also more likely to have contemplated or attempted suicide.

Other studies have suggested that low-protein diets (associated with vegetarianism) reduce calcium absorption and may have a negative impact on skeletal health.

With many youngsters not eating meat for ethical reasons, such as concern for animals, telling them they have to eat meat to stay healthy "is appalling," said Reed Mangels, a nutritionist with the Vegetarian Resource Group.

The sides agree that the majority of teens, regardless of their vegetarian beliefs, have horrible diets. Young, the cattlemen's association nutrition director, says children who become vegetarians are worse off since they don't know what they're doing.

"To have a healthy vegetarian diet, you need to be pretty committed to getting the right nutrients. Most kids this age, meat eaters or vegetarians, are not that committed," she said.

Beef contains iron, zinc and B-12, which are necessary for growth and good health, she said. But those are available in plant-based foods and supplements, too, other nutritionists point out.

And though lean beef has plenty of valuable nutrients in it, recipes on the Cool-2b-real Web site - such as taco beef dip, beef chili, and cheeseburger mac and cheese - "are not particularly healthful," Shuker said, noting that they are loaded with high-fat ingredients and short on fruits and vegetables.

Parents who are worried about their child's diet should consult a registered dietitian, Mangels advised.

Perhaps the cattlemen can learn something from Jessica Watson's parents. The 23-year-old became a vegetarian when she was 12 because of her love of animals.

"My parents hated it," she said, and tried to force her to eat meat by telling her she would not grow and making her sit at the table until she cleaned her plate.

"Mom's been a vegetarian for three years now, and my dad's been a vegan for five years," said Watson. "It's very satisfying."

16,090 Posts
I was just going to ask about that statistic! What in the world college are they talking about? Vegetarians were such a tiny tiny minority at my college and that was only a few years ago.

But, I did think that was a very nice article.

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Actually, that's the same stat that'd I've run across in seeking out info in regards to my planned vegetarian sandwich shop, about 20% of college students regard themselves as vegetarian, although the key word there is 'regards', as some even eat meat occasionally, but aprently consider to be such a small part of their food consumption as not be worthy of changing their view of themselves as being vegetarian.

1,775 Posts
Yes, warp their young, impressionable minds. Mwahahaha

Other studies have suggested that low-protein diets (associated with vegetarianism) reduce calcium absorption and may have a negative impact on skeletal health.

Umm... generally anyone in a Western country who is not getting enough protein is anorexic or being abused/starved.
And, animal protein consumption is positively correlated with bone mineral density loss and increased fracture rates.
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