What Does It Mean To Be A Social Omnivore?

In 2023, vegetarianism is hardly an unknown philosophy, with 1-in-10 Americans reportedly choosing to give up meat for good (via Alliance for Science). Many people make the choice to become meat-free due to strongly held beliefs on the treatment of animals in factory farms, the environment, or simply to improve their health. Despite these convictions, many vegetarians find it difficult to navigate their special diets in a culture that is obsessed with consuming meat. 

For many people, meat-based dishes hold a cultural significance, making avoiding them completely during larger gatherings seem like an impossible choice. For others, the experience of trying new dishes with loved ones without having to worry about dietary restrictions is something all too important. These individuals fit into the category of social omnivore, a term coined by Bon Appetit writer Ali Francis. The term refers to diners who elect to partake in meat while in social situations, though remain committed to reducing their meat consumption by forgoing meat at home. So how can someone pull this off?

Being a social omnivore is about finding balance

For many social omnivores, the lifestyle is about finding a sense of balance. Explained by registered dietician Michelle Milgrim, "Being a social omnivore virtually eliminates the rigidity of vegetarian, and especially vegan, living" (per Parade). The lifestyle can also help those who are interested in reducing their meat consumption without forcing them to comply with strict dietary standards, which can sometimes prove to be overwhelming. The phenomenon could potentially be used as a stepping stone to help those interested in becoming fully vegetarian or vegan make the transition to a plant-based lifestyle. 

Reddit users had mixed opinions on the so-called social omnivore movement. While most users agreed that the lifestyle doesn't fit in with the animal welfare side of being vegan and vegetarian, several users did concede that the dining philosophy would be a useful strategy when faced with having to navigate a setting where vegan and vegetarian food isn't readily available, or when being offered food by someone who isn't familiar with the concepts. 

While the social omnivore debate seems to be in its infancy, it will be interesting to see how the concept continues to shape the conversation around plant-based living in the future.