Yes, Plant Based Meat Is Better For The Planet

Posted: Nov 19, 2021

Plant-based meat has gone mainstream. The Impossible Burger, which debuted at a single restaurant five years ago, is now on Burger King’s permanent menu. And McDonald’s is testing its McPlant burger, featuring a Beyond Meat patty, in select US locations. Both plant-based startups are now veterans in a product category that did $1.4 billion in sales and grew 27 percent in 2020.

Under the tagline “Eat Meat. Save the Planet,” Impossible Foods claims its soy-based burger uses 87 percent less water, takes 96 percent less land, and has 89 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions than a beef burger. Beyond Meat makes similar claims about its pea-based burgers.

This matters because animal agriculture contributes around 15 percent of global greenhouse emissions, and experts agree that without a major shift away from meat in our diets, we won’t be able to meet the global community’s climate targets. The promise of plant-based faux meats is that consumers will be able to keep enjoying the foods they love, but with a far lower climate footprint.

But an increasing number of researchers, food critics, and environmental groups are casting doubt on these types of claims, warning that faux meat production still relies on industrial farming practices. They claim that we don’t know enough about these relatively new products to say for certain if they’re better for the environment than the meat they are trying to replace.

One recent whitepaper from an environmental NGO states that the above claims from faux meat companies “are unproven, and some clearly untrue.” A sustainability analyst quoted in the New York Times goes further, claiming that the companies’ secrecy about their production methods means that “We don’t feel we have sufficient information to say Beyond Meat is fundamentally different from JBS.” (JBS is the world’s largest meat producer).

Author: Matthew Hayek and Jan Dutkiewicz
Date: November 19, 2021
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