New numbers released Monday suggest that US consumers are buying into messages promoted by governments, environmentalists and doctors alike to reduce their consumption of red meat.

While steakhouse restaurants made a slight gain in growth last year, it still wasn't enough to make up for the 6.4 decline in sales experienced nationwide in the US in 2009. Sales rose a modest 2.2 percent in 2010.

Steakhouse restaurant chains continued to be affected by slow unit expansion, a decline in customer traffic and check averages, and additional closures, points out the report from Technomic, a food industry consultancy group that analyzed 500 of the largest restaurants in the US.

In 2010, chains like Lone Star Steakhouse closed 19 of its underperforming restaurants across the US, leaving the chain with 112 locations across the country. Lone Star had more than twice as many restaurants just six years ago in 2005, with 253 units.

Similarly, CB Holding Corp. shuttered 30 steakhouse restaurants in its group, including 20 Charlie Brown's Steakhouses and 10 of its Bugaboo Creek Steak Houses.

Red meat has been much maligned in recent years for being a carbon- and resource-intensive food product. Cattle ranches result in land degradation, air and water pollution, consume a lot of water, and loss of biodiversity. Animal flatulence alone, for example, is estimated to be responsible for 18 percent of global greenhouse gases, according to the UN.

Last month, the UK government released a new set of dietary guidelines urging Britons to cut back on their red meat consumption, citing the elevated risk of bowel cancer. The recommendations amount to 70 g (2.5 ounces) of red meat a day.

The daily equivalent would be the amount of beef patties in one Big Mac.

Similarly, lower check averages and a decline in traffic could also be the result of the fallout from the recession.

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