Cookbooks as cultural indicators: An examination of protein consumption trends in North America
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The production of animal-derived products from cattle, pigs, poultry, and fish has negative impacts on the environment. These negative effects such as climate change and eutrophication are being driven by consumer demand. As population increases, demand for animal protein increases. Demand, however, is increasing in excess of population growth. It is important to understand why animal protein consumption is increasing in excess of population growth in order to predict and, if possible, limit negative impacts on the environment. This study seeks to document whether there has been a change in what North American society considers a “typical” portion of animal protein over the past 100 years. Cookbooks were used to collect information on what authors and readers of these books understood as an acceptable serving size of protein in the year the book was published or printed. Documenting the trend demonstrated that portion sizes in the recipes examined have, in fact, been decreasing. This suggests that increased protein consumption may be caused by factors such as increasing meal frequency rather than portion size. Further studies should be done to examine the frequency of meals being eaten containing animal protein as this is likely contributing to the increase.