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This Year's Coming of Spring Will Mark the Great American Meatout

March 13, 1986|DANIEL P. PUZO | Times Staff Writer

The first day of spring, which arrives this year on March 20, will be no time to own a butcher shop or hot-dog stand. These are likely to be some of the business people made miserable as the Farm Animal Reform Movement sponsors the Great American Meatout.

The group is calling on consumers throughout the country to boycott meat for the day in protest of the financial, health and environmental problems it claims are created by the livestock and poultry industries.

The short-lived rejection is part of what the Washington-based organization hopes will be the first step toward a major evolution in the American diet. The group plans on achieving its goal partially through harsh criticism of the meat industry in newsletters and at public forums.

For instance, the movement's literature states that a vegetarian diet is a "less violent life style" than one which incorporates meat. Eliminating the likes of beef, pork, lamb and poultry is also likely to spare consumers from "the crippling and premature death brought on by heart disease, stroke, cancer and other chronic disorders associated with excessive consumption of animal fat and meat."

The Farm Animal Reform Movement also states that the active cooperation of the federal government is principally responsible for the high per-capita consumption of meat in this country and what it claims are the related health problems.

Seeking to change this situation, Alex Hershaft, representative for the organization, testified recently before the U.S. Senate health subcommittee. During the presentation, Hershaft called for an end to all federal assistance for programs that promote meat consumption, urged that warning labels be placed on all meat packaging alerting of possible health hazards and proposed that funding be provided for programs that advocate a meatless diet.

Brainstorming on Vegetables--Those unenthusiastic carnivores who find themselves inclined to participate in the Great American Meatout but who still lack the necessary motivation might find a recent story in Vegetarian Times to be of help. The magazine recently published a list of "100 reasons to be a vegetarian."

The collection is not likely to cause significant changes in eating habits, but a few are worth repeating. Some of the magazine's anti-meat rationales include:

--Vegetarians smell better;

--Gorillas are vegetarians;

--Vegetarians don't have to buy steak knives;

-- . . . in one lifetime, the average American meat-eater will consume eight cattle, 36 sheep, 36 pigs, 550 poultry and one-half ton of fish;

--"Mister Rogers" is a vegetarian.

A Coffee Blitz--The drought which has severely affected the Brazilian coffee industry touched off a round of hoarding by American consumers during the first few weeks of this year. Hoping to avoid sharp price increases, the average supermarket shopper purchased 142% more coffee during the third week of January than for the same period in 1985, according to MRCA Information Services.

The pattern emerged as part of the Stamford, Conn.-based research firm's National Consumer Panel, which charts sales of packaged goods. The heightened activity resulted in more than 50 million pounds of coffee sold during the period versus 22 million pounds during the same week in 1985.

The hoarding actually began during the second week of January when coffee purchases increased 47% over the previous year's total, hit a peak during the following week and then subsided during the month's final seven days when sales were up 42%, the firm recently reported.

Activity has returned to normal levels because the expected price increases have materialized, according to the MRCA data.

Those crisis-minded shoppers who did stock up on java several weeks ago were preceptive consumers indeed. The weather problems in Brazil have cut that nation's coffee bean production in half. Original expectations were for a harvest of 30 million bags of beans from the world's leading producer; estimates now place the total at 15 million. The shortfall has thus had a major impact on global supplies because Brazil produces one-third of the international total.

As a result of the ongoing supply problem, MRCA will now focus attention on whether consumers begin altering coffee drinking habits by switching to less expensive brands, using more instant or avoiding the beverage altogether.

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