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Seattle Times news librarian Gene Balk crunches the numbers

January 22, 2013 at 6:30 AM

What are Seattle’s most — and least — vegetarian neighborhoods?

Mighty-O Donuts in Wallingford (Photo: Gene Balk/The Seattle Times)

Are you a vegetarian or vegan?  Or perhaps pescetarian, flexitarian, or pollotarian?

In Seattle, alternative diets hardly seem alternative any more.  And as many Seattleites have given up or reduced their meat consumption, local restaurants and other food sellers have responded to the demand. Meat-free eating options abound here, and Seattle is often ranked among the country’s best cities for vegetarians and vegans.

While we don’t know the exact number, it’s a safe bet that this city has one of the largest vegetarian and vegan populations in the U.S. But where in Seattle are they most heavily concentrated?   Which neighborhood takes top honors as Seattle’s most vegetarian?

It’s not an easy question to answer because of the lack of any demographic data on Americans who don’t eat meat. The Census Bureau, unfortunately, does not count the number of vegetarians and vegans. It does, however, collect data on our food buying behaviors, such as how much we spend on groceries, and the various types of foods we purchase.

Using this consumer spending data, I averaged out the food budget for residents of each Seattle neighborhood. Then I calculated how much of that budget is spent on meat and fish, and ranked the neighborhoods based on the results. While this might not tell us the actual number of vegetarians in each neighborhood, it does indicate where meat is making up the smallest — and largest — percentage of people’s diets.

The data show that there is a wide range in the amount of meat Seattleites eat, depending on where in the city they live.  In fact, from the most vegetarian to the most carnivorous neighborhoods, there is a 23 percent difference in the amount of the average food budget spent on meat and fish.

And which Seattle neighborhood topped the rankings as the most vegetarian? It’s Wallingford/Tangletown, home to the famous Mighty-O vegan donut shop, where meat and fish are the lowest food shopping priority.

Rounding out the top-5 most meat-averse neighborhoods are Lower Queen Anne, Green Lake, Fremont, and Central Ballard, in that order.  These areas have similar demographic profiles; they are all prosperous neighborhoods just north of downtown, and the inhabitants are typically younger (median age in early 30s), well-educated professionals. In all these neighborhoods, the food budgets are high, but the amount of that budget spent on meat is significantly lower than the city average.

International District (Photo: Joe Mabel/Wikimedia Commons)

For the neighborhoods at the other end of the spectrum — those where meat fills up the most square footage of the locals’ shopping carts — a demographic pattern also emerges, but it’s a different one.  They are mostly located in the southern parts of the city, and they are significantly less wealthy than average.  The populations are older, and these neighborhoods have greater ethnic diversity than those that ranked highest on the vegetarian scale.

And which neighborhood is the most carnivorous in Seattle?  It might surprise you that the International District tops the list.  Folks who live here spend 26 percent of their grocery budget on meat and fish, the highest in the city. However, this ranking is due mainly to the fact that in this majority-Asian neighborhood, residents spend a greater proportion of their food budget on fish and seafood than people in any other Seattle neighborhood.  If fish and seafood are taken out of the equation, then the No. 1 neighborhood for carnivores is the Dunlap section of Rainier Valley, which is located just to the north of Rainier Beach. In fact, most of the top meat-eating sections of the city are neighborhoods within Rainier Valley, as well as in West Seattle and the Central District.


What are your thoughts on Seattle’s vegan and vegetarian dining scene?  How do you think Seattle stacks up to other cities?  Take the poll and free free to leave a comment.


Follow me on twitter @genebalk

Comments | More in Demographics, Government Data | Topics: diet, food, Seattle


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