My stove (click to enlarge).
Despite the growing body of evidence featured on this blog and elsewhere, and the near consensus of the recreationally vegan-economist community, there still remains a small body of skeptics who deny the positive effect of the vegan diet on human health. This post presents research conducted by the Recreational Vegan’s Quantitative Strategies Branch (QSB) in an attempt to further promulgate the scientific truth. This is done by quantifying the effect of veganism on health using the tools of econometrics.
A random sample consisting of 8 observations on individuals’ percent veganism and number of sick days in 2006 was collected. To counter a possible error in variables problem due to individuals reporting inaccurate measures of their veganism, a detailed schedule of veganism levels was supplied to survey respondents. As shown in the following table, there is substantial variation in the sample.
|Percent Veganism||Sick Days|
The following regression was performed using ordinary least squares
SickDaysi = β0 + β1 · PercentVegani + εi
where i indexes individuals. The results are shown in the table below. The R-squared is 0.76 and a White test does not reject the null of homoskedasticity, indicating that there are no obvious specification errors. It would be possible to include more variables, such as dummy variables for gender or parenthood. However, these factors are unlikely to be correlated with percent veganism and as a result leaving them out will not cause an omitted variable bias.
Veganism has the expected sign and is significant at the 1% level. The results suggest that increasing veganism by 10 percentage points will reduce the number of sick days per year by 0.7. This has clear policy implications, suggesting that employers should offer incentives to employees to increase their veganism levels, possibly by offering free vegan lunches.
The purpose of this post is to provide rigorous microfoundations for %95 veganism. The post is structured as follows. This paragraph summarizes the post. The next paragraph models consumer utility as a function of animal welfare and a composite good, while the third paragraph derives a relationship between the two. The fourth paragraph shows that %95 is the optimal amount of veganism for a rational consumer. The last paragraph concludes.
Let a represent animal welfare and b a composite good consisting of all other goods. Assume a utility function of the form U(a, b) = ln a + ln b. It is easy to see that Ua > 0 for all a, indicating that the consumer benefits from the well-being of animals. This is consistent with the psychological evidence.
As noted in an earlier post consumption is inexorably linked to animal welfare, and therefore we can write b = f (a). It is reasonable to assume that f ‘ < 0. For tractability, assume that f takes the form f (a) = e-ka, where k is a constant. Testing the validity of these assumptions is left as an exercise for the reader.
Substituting into U gives U(a, f (a)) = ln a – ka. Note that beyond a certain point the second term is growing faster than the first, indicating that an optimum will be reached before a grows very large. This implies that consumers are boundedly compassionate in the sense that they are not willing to forgo consumption entirely for the sake of their furry friends. Maximizing with respect to a shows that U reaches an optimum at a = 1/k. Evaluating the ratio a/b at the optimum gives e/k which equals 0.95 for k = 2.86. This value of k is consistent with some empirical evidence.1
In conclusion, classical microeconomic theory behaviour predicts that consumers will be %95 vegan if they are boundedly compassionate and rational. Future research could discuss the implications of heterogeneous goods (i.e., food and non-food goods) for the model. I would like to thank my coauthor, therecreationalvegan, for his many useful suggestions in developing this post. All mistakes are my own.
1Consistent is being used in the probabilistic sense here, meaning that as r -> (where r is empirical research) the probability limit that empirical research will find evidence for k = 2.86 is 1.
Today, the Recreational Vegan pays tribute to Scott Yurek (vegan since 1999). Scott holds two consecutive wins as well as the record time (24:36:08) for the Badwater ultramarathon, a 135 mile jogging competition which starts 282 feet below sea level in Death Valley and finishes 8,360 feet up Mount Whitney.
In addition to refuting the (ethnocentric/foodist) drivel that vegans are weaklings, Scott’s success has clear implications for aspiring athletes:
(1) Following a balanced vegan diet will greatly increase your chances of winning athletic competitions.
(2) If unable to follow a vegan diet one will likely require performance enhancing drugs to compete with super-human vegan athletes.
Beijing– I had nearly given up on vegetarian eating in Beijing after discovering that two centrally located vegetarian restaurants recommended by Lonely Planet had closed. Green Tianshi had gone out of business since the time the book was published (2005), while Gongdelin was shut down due to pre-Olympic construction. So imagine my joy accidentally discovering the one-year old Deng Pin while wandering around the hutongs that surround the Lama Temple and Confucious Temple. Before I continue, I need to say that Deng Pin is the best chinese and all-around (yes, I said that) vegetarian restaurant I have ever been to.
Deng Pin offers a buffet and a standard menu option. On both occasions I visited I went for the buffet, although the hotpots that I saw people ordering looked splendid. I chose the buffet after doing a walk around of the options, and was blown away. One table had beautifully cut up raw vegetables and mushrooms. The table behind that were the main courses: about 8-10 mushroom and tofu heavy soups and stews, another 10-15 tofu/gluten+vegetable dishes with varying spicing and saucing. This table also had several rice and fried noodle options, and another 10 or so fake-meatless vegetable dishes. On one side of the buffet area was vegetable sushi rolls and cooked nut options. At the far end were some more soup options and 2 types of vegetable wontons, chinese pancakes, and poppyseed biscuits. A table to the left of the main buffet contained raw greens (a splendid idea!) and a non-standard dessert table (given that non-fruit desserts in China are rare) filled with cookies, cakes, fruit (whole bananas and oranges), and ice cream.
I’ve established that the restaurant has quantity and a diversity of options. So what about the food? To put it blunty, it was amazing. I tried almost every dish possible and liked virtually everything, a rare feat for a picky eater. The tofu dishes were delightfully fresh and moist. The tofu and vegetables did not suffer from the usual over-oiling that plagues some chinese foods. The mushroom soups were especially good, dense with at least 5 different types of whole mushrooms – perfect for the frigid Beijing winter. The (normally meat-eating) friend that joined me on my second trip thought the food was the best he had on his 3 month travels through Asia, and particularly admired the soup selection. The restaurant was also beautifully decorated and relayed the surrounding temples’ sense of calm. A wonderful escape from sometimes dreary and militaristic Beijing!
Fruit in meal: Raw fruit available but in keeping with standard chinese cooking, was not mixed in with dishes.
Deng Pin (also called Xu Xiang Zhai) is located on Guozijian Jie across from the Confucious Temple (subway Yonghegong Lama Temple, take exit “C”). Most dishes are vegan, but some of the desserts have dairy and egg. Buffet is RMB 58 or about $9. Hours 11am-2pm for lunch and 5pm-9pm for dinner.
The writer is travelling in Shanghai and Beijing as part of the QSB’s ongoing empirical research on wordly vegetarian eating. The therecreationalvegan.wordpress.com is proudly banned in China.
We are very excited to let you know what’s on the horizon (next month or so) for this blog.
- Consensual sex is definitely vegan, but what about condoms? Our guest vegan sex columnist explores…
- therecreationalvegan is expanding to include a travel section! The authors are travelling, and will provide vegan-related commentary from across the globe. vegetarian95 is heading to Vancouver, while therecreationalvegan goes to Shanghai and Beijing.
- More Toronto restaurant reviews!
Fruit and veggie talk, restaurant reviews, recipes. From a Toronto angle. As the name suggests, we do veganism recreationally. One writer claims %95 veganism. The other, a self-described ‘vegequarium’. But we believe our outsider status gives us additional insight into the vegan world, just like the social drinker has a different perspective on great alcohol than the alcoholic.