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Healthy Profits

With all those mad cows, vegetarian food looks a little better every day.

While mad cow disease and Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) currently appear confined to Europe, images of diseased animals and burning carcasses have crept into the United States. Granted, we're all still eating Big Macs and T-bones, but our collective consciousness has been pierced by the question: Could it happen here?

Not terribly likely, with all the safeguards put in place by the FDA and the USDA. But now is still an opportune time to talk about alternatives to meat. "There's been a widening [consumer demand] for vegetarian-type dishes, particularly among younger people," says Warren Belasco, a professor of American Studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who teaches a class on American foods. "They're more aware of the general health issues-not just contamination issues, but heart disease, cholesterol and fat issues as well."

It's no news flash that people want to eat healthier. But combined with the FMD and Mad Cow phenomena, now's a great time to get into the game-perhaps with a vegetarian-themed business, be it pre-frozen veggie meals or a vegetarian restaurant.

If you're a confessed carnivore, how about pumping the virtues of organic and healthy meat, the kind that comes from animals that aren't raised in the industrial-type environments where Mad Cow or FMD are more likely to flourish? An all-organic restaurant or a natural meal delivery service might be in the cards.

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This article was originally published in the October 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Healthy Profits.

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