By Paul Tooher
Times have changed in Chicago.
The city once known as “The Hog Butcher to the World” today is ranked as one of the most vegan-friendly cites in the nation by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
The animal-rights group ranks the Windy City the fifth-best city for those who shun eating meat, noting that “cruelty-free restaurants and festivals are sprouting up all over town.”
In particular, the organization notes that Chicago is home to “one of the most legendary vegan-friendly restaurants in the world,” The Chicago Diner, which proudly boasts the slogan “Meat Free Since ’83.’”
PETA also cites Chicago Vegan Foods, which makes and distributes vegan products such as Temptation ice cream, Teese vegan cheese, and Dandies marshmallows to grocery stores, restaurants and cafés throughout the country.”
According to Statistic Brain, there are 7.3 million vegetarians in the United States, while 22.8 million say they follow a “vegetarian-inclined diet.” Approximately 1 million Americans identify themselves as vegans who refrain from consuming not only meat but also eggs, dairy products and other animal-derived substances.
And, according to Google Trends, interest in vegan diets is at an all-time high, spurred in part by the advocacy of such influential figures as former President Bill Clinton.
PETA ranks Austin, Texas, as the most vegan-friendly city in the nation, calling it “The vegan food truck capital of the world.”
Other cities making the top 10 list include Portland, Ore., Los Angeles, New York City, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Boulder, Colo., and Richmond, Va.
Despite the growing interest in vegetarianism and vegan diets, America largely remains a meat-eating society. According to the American Meat Institute, the meat and poultry industry is the largest segment of U.S. agriculture.
In 2011, the most recent figures available, American meat companies produced 26.3 billion pounds of beef, 22.8 billion pounds of pork, 5.8 billion pounds of turkey 291 million pounds of veal, lamb and mutton and 37.7 billion pounds of chicken.