Plant-Based Meat 10 Times More Sustainable Than Beef, Study Estimates
Global food production is responsible for a third of all greenhouse gas emissions, and within that startling statistic, nearly 60 percent of those emissions can be attributed to meat production. But meat products might present more environmental concerns than previously thought. The University of Oxford published a study examining 57,000 food products to find that plant-based sausages and burgers are up to 10 times more environmentally-friendly than their meat counterparts.
The study evaluated the environmental impacts of commonly-purchased food products to understand the relationship between food production and the climate crisis. Led by researchers in Oxford’s Livestock, Environment, and People program and the Oxford Population Health, the study explored greenhouse gas emissions, land use, eutrophication (the process of water becoming enriched with nutrients and minerals) potential, and water stress to determine that plant-based meat is the best choice for the planet.
“By estimating the environmental impact of food and drink products in a standardized way, we have taken a significant first step towards providing information that could enable informed decision-making,” Lead author, Dr. Michael Clark said. “We still need to find how best effectively to communicate this information, in order to shift behavior towards more sustainable outcomes, but assessing the impact of products is an important step forward."
To determine whether plant-based meat is the best choice for shoppers, the researchers combined the scores of all the sample food products. The study aimed to provide more information for shoppers who more often keep sustainability in mind at the store. Even though food giants continue to make bold claims to set net zero greenhouse gas standards, most meat and dairy companies still contribute dangerously high emissions.
The study also found that dried beef products – including jerky – rank as some of the worst foods for the environment. Choosing plant-based meats can help consumers reduce negative environmental contributions by five to 10 times.
“For the first time, we have a transparent and comparable method for assessing the environmental footprint of multi-ingredient processed foods,” Scarborough said in a statement. “These types of foods make up most of the supermarket shopping we do, but until now there was no way of directly comparing their impact on the environment.”
Heat Waves Scorched the Planet This Summer: Here’s What to Do
This summer, heat waves worldwide underscored the severity of the climate crisis. Forest fires and droughts were caused by record-breaking temperatures, and new research shows that this is the beginning asserting that similar extreme heat waves will increase by 30 percent in the coming years. However, the UN’s third IPCC report claims that the world still has time to combat climate change. The report emphasized that governments and citizens alike should begin transitioning to plant-based foods to protect the planet.
An Impossible Burger requires 78 times less land use to create than a conventional beef burger. Beyond Meat’s sustainability report found that its meat alternatives use 99 percent less water, 93 percent less land, and 46 percent less energy. One study published this January found that plant-based diets can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 61 percent.
Vegan Meat is More Sustainable and Healthier
This month, the University of Bath found that vegan meat is healthier and more sustainable than regular meat. The comprehensive study examined 43 studies that deal with health and environmental factors in relation to consumer behavior. The researchers found that 90 percent of consumers who tried plant-based meat and dairy were meat-eaters or "flexitarians" who hope to minimize their animal consumption but have not sworn off meat and dairy altogether.
This study also focused on how meat alternatives work to persuade consumers to try sustainable options. By introducing more plant-based meat, consumers are more likely to shift toward eating plant-based.
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