A common belief about vegetarians is that they reduce the number of animals that die or at least reduce the demand for meat. But I also heard that less demand for meat will reduce meat prices and therefore increase or at least not reduce the meat consumed.

I found sources (https://www.peta.org/living/food/vegetarian-101/) that say that a vegetarian saves 100 animals a year, but it counts the amount of meat that he didn't buy, not the amount of meat that was not produced.

In this question Does vegetarianism cause any decline in the slaughter of animals in the food industry? they try to answer it, but the answer only says that the meat consumption has increased over a long period of time.

I want to find some sources that talk about this topic. Does being vegetarian actually decrease the amount of dead animals or in the end does it only change the price of meat?

  • 2
    OK ... if people buy less beef, then ranchers will raise fewer steers. It does not mean that steers now living will have long and uneventful lives; it means fewer will be bred in the future. My going vegetarian does not save 100 existing animals per year from slaughter. At best it may prevent 100 future animals per year from being born.
    – GEdgar
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 14:00
  • @GEdgar I understand this idea, but my doubt is another. If I dont buy meat, the meat price will fall and then the no vegetarians will buy more and at the end kill the same amount of animals as before?
    – Ivan
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 14:06
  • @Ivan That is a secondary effect. Who says this will be larger than the primary effect? You should add sources that claim exactly that, otherwise there is no claim to be (dis)proven.
    – user22865
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 14:16
  • 1
    @Ivan: The "meat price will fall" argument is not sound, at least in prosperous countries. Most non-vegetarians can already purchase as much meat as they care to eat, while over the longer term, farmers will raise only as much as they can expect to sell profitably.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 17:42
  • 1
    "Less demand for meat will reduce meat prices and therefore increase or at least not reduce the meat consumed." This is makes no sense. The argument is first saying that demand is decreasing, but then says that demand will not decrease because of price drops. If demand is decreasing, then it's decreasing. If a price drop keeps people buying, then that's a shift in price equilibrium, not a change in demand. If we assume meat prices are at equilibrium now, a decrease in demand not due to price will likely not be affected by a price drop, therefore supply will drop to meet demand.
    – user11643
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 22:30

1 Answer 1


It's all supply and demand really. If the demand is reduced, prices will fall in order for the excessive stock to be reduced.

In the long term though prices can not fall lower than the cost of raising the cattle. Farms with higher cost will be priced out of the market and will stop raising cattle.

This is all theoretical though. What is happening in the real world?

If we look at the statistics we'll see that beef retail price per lbs has almost doubled between 2002 and 2015 while production has fallen down around 15% and so have imports. In the meantime Americans are eating more meat

Around 7 million Americans are vegetarian, while that's significant, it does not see to affect the meat market that much.

So I think the conclusion is that vegetarians are not a driving factor of meat consumption and thus have minimal effect on prices and production either up or down. The number of vegetarians is probably somewhat stable so the chance of swings like the one you are asking about are minimal.

Hypotheticals: 1. If you become vegetarian tomorrow that won't result in less animals being slaughtered. Your personal demand is just a rounding error in a huge industry. 2. If a million people become vegetarians tomorrow that might reduce the rate of increase of animals slaughtered, but the absolute numbers will not go down, the rest of the country will still outweigh the new vegetarians. 3. What if tens of millions become vegetarians? If it happens suddenly, the beef market will crash, the prices will hit rock bottom and a lot of farms will probably go out of business if the lower demand persists. Obviously the reverse could also happen, which is the bases of the claim being made.

Is any of this going to "save" any animals? If the demand is low, less animals will be bred for meat. Not sure if that qualifies.


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