There's never been a better time to be a half-assed vegetarian. Five years ago, the American Dialect Society honored the word flexitarian for its utility in describing a growing demographic--the "vegetarian who occasionally eats meat." Now there's evidence that going flexi is good for the environment and good for your health. A study released last October found that a plant-based diet, augmented with a small amount of dairy and meat, maximizes land-use efficiency. In January, Michael Pollan distilled the entire field of nutritional science into three rules for a healthy diet: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." According to a poll released last week, Americans seem to be listening: Thirteen percent of U.S. adults are "semivegetarian," meaning they eat meat with fewer than half of all their meals. In comparison, true vegetarians--those who never, ever consume animal flesh--compose just 1 percent.
The flexitarian ethic is beginning to creep into the most ardent sector of the meat-free population: the vegans. In recent years, some in the community have begun to loosen up the strict definitions and bright-line rules that once defined the movement. You'll never find a self-respecting vegan downing a glass of milk or munching on a slice of buttered toast. But the modern adherent may be a little more accommodating when it comes to the dairy of the insect world: He may have relaxed his principles enough to enjoy a spoonful of honey.
Slate 1 Aug 2008