This year, more Americans than ever are a plant-based approach to eating. Still, despite the rise of plant-based products, meat alternatives, non-dairy milk, and vegan chicken showing up everywhere, there is still a relatively small number of self-subscribed vegans in this country.

According to the most recent numbers from 2016, The Pew Center pegs it at about 3 percent. But that same survey reports that 8 percent of African Americans are vegan. And The Washington Post reports that musicians, artists and actors are influencing this trend.

A Gallup Survey has an updated picture: In a survey of consumers’ meat-eating changes, nearly one in four Americans (23 percent) report eating less meat in the past year than they had previously; white people reported eating 19 percent less meat in the past 12 months while people of color reported eating 31 percent less meat. Only 5 percent were eating more meat and the rest were holding steady at about the same levels.

The Washington Post reports that the fastest-growing segment of the plant-based population is African Americans. The story pins the rise of veganism in the black community as influenced by rappers and musicians who paved the way. The Washington Post's Laura Reiley writes the story here.

European Premiere of Disney's "The Lion King"
JAY-Z and Beyoncé have invested in vegan businesses | Getty Images

Musicians and the plant-based diet

Reiley interviewed people on the connection between veganism and the influence of African American performers and found the connection is strong: JAY-Z and Beyoncé offered fans tickets to their concerts if they went vegan. Jaden Smith—son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith—has been handing out free vegan food to the homeless in LA. Rapper A$AP Rocky has included vegan lyrics to his most famous song, "Babushka Boi." The Beet wrote about 7 rappers who "Dropped the Mic on Meat" and interviewed Jermaine Dupri last month about his longtime commitment to veganism and he explained that this has been a personal journey, but he has influenced others along the way. When he goes to eat vegan and leaves a studio session to find plant-based options, he explained, now people want to go with him.

Meanwhile, eight of the 10 performers that make up the group Wu-Tang Clan identify as vegan or vegetarian. Rapper Cardi B has launched her own vegan fashion line.

JAY-Z and Beyoncé partnered with Marco Borges, her trainer, to launch 22 Days Nutrition, a high-end vegan meal planning program, which allows you to shop the ingredients through the site, and which The Post reports, has an annual revenue of between $2.5 and $3 million.
The Post also reports that JAY-Z’s venture capital firm Marcy Venture Partners invested $1 million in Partake Foods, a black-owned start-up that makes allergen-free vegan cookies. He’s also invested in Impossible Foods, along with a host of other celebs.

Diet plays a role in climate change | Lance Grandhal on Unsplash
Diet plays a role in climate change | Lance Grandhal on Unsplash

Climate and Diet

Keith Tucker is a Seattle-based radio host who founded Hip Hop is Green. The group promotes climate change and wellbeing among urban stars and fans, and Tucker has worked with stars like Public Enemy and Russell Simmons (a vegan since 1997). He started what's known as the 10th Element, a movement to spark positive change in the lives of young people, including promoting values of wellbeing and personal health.

“KRS-One was an inspiration for me,” Tucker says, referring to the star who was part of the Hip Hop group Boogie Down Productions. “His song ‘Beef’ in 1990 influenced a lot people in hip-hop to think about veganism, to think about the meat in the slave diet, about the chemicals that were starting to be put in the food and the rise of highly processed foods.”

Boogie Down Productions frontman KRS-One raps, long before the Internet made facts readily available at their iPhones, about beef as a poisonous ... "man has drugs to make the cow grow quicker... and the cow gets sicker." He calls meat "the number one drug on the street" and tells his listeners, even back in 1990 to read How to Eat to Live by Elisha Muhammed.

The Post reports that way back In 2009, Tucker held his first Hip Hop Is Green dinner, assembling hip-hop artists and educators with the "goal of bringing health and wellness to youths and families around the country through group meals with star-studded casts of attendees and performers." In 2015 he produced the first plant-based hip-hop event at the White House.

A 2017 Nielsen survey found that 39 percent of Americans are actively trying to eat more plant-based foods, as reported in The Post. Jermaine Dupri, who lives in Atlanta and posts frequently about the vegan lifestyle as he travels around the world as a music producer, says his upbringing was a big influence on his healthy lifestyle. Dupri, in turn, has influenced others in his circle to eat vegan foods, and was proudly the first person to get in line to taste test the KFC plant-based chicken when it opened in his hometown of Atlanta.

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