There are critics who question its motives, but the Meatless Monday campaign is enlisting new support at a time when consumers are trying to save money.
The idea first appeared in 2003 as a non-profit effort partially funded by animal welfare groups, with assistance from the Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health. Since then, going meatless periodically garners attention as new initiatives are launched in which vegetarianism is a component.
That's what's happening right now. Ingrid Newkirk, the president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, wrote to the White House this summer to ask whether President Obama and his family would consider participating — a move that would put First Lady Michelle Obama's organic garden out back to good use.
“If you institute this program in the White House, it will be a giant step forward in transforming it to a green house, and it will set a wonderful example for people nationwide or worldwide who look to you for leadership when it comes to a kinder, environmentally friendlier, and more health-conscious approach to life,” she wrote.
A number of popular food websites, including Epicurious.com, have begun featuring Meatless Mondays recipes.
Are supermarket retailers seeing any kind of shift? The recession might have consumers looking at less-expensive meat alternatives, but observers believe animal welfare is a more compelling reason, and that could have a lasting impact. A 2008 study from Vegetarian Times magazine shows that 7.3 million Americans do not eat meat; another 23 million describe themselves as “vegetarian-inclined.”