Meat Substitutes’ Carbon Footprint

For meat-lovers who are looking for ways to eat healthier, be kinder to animals, and reduce their carbon footprints, plant-based meat substitutes can be a helpful and convenient option.

Recent research  by Maximo Mejia of Andrews University suggests that meat-eaters can continue to enjoy the flavors they like while reducing their greenhouse gas footprint by up to ten times:

While the pollution generated to produce a typical 8-ounce steak is equivalent to driving a small car for about 29 miles, replacing that steak with the same weight of a vegetarian meat substitute is like driving the same car just three miles. Across the board, meatless alternatives are associated with substantially lower emissions than actual meat, according to an analysis of the environmental impacts of 39 meat substitutes presented at the American Society for Nutrition Annual Meeting during Experimental Biology 2016.

Of course, this is good news for meat-eaters, but also for plant-eaters. However, Alchemus Prime’s win-win approach asks us to go beyond only carbon footprint and look at other factors for planetary and personal wellness: are these substitutes non-GMO, organic, gluten-free (find out why), and minimally processed?

Often, the answer is no. As a vegan, I occasionally experiment with meat substitutes to see what tastes good. But mostly, I prefer organic foods in their natural form like fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, beans, and nuts that aren’t processed too much. I relax these preferences when eating out, and find that I’m spoiled in California with a plethora of vegan and gluten-free options.

As we move toward creating a more compassionate, sensible, healthy, safe, and just future, it’s important to consider the greenhouse gas emissions and cruelty on our plates. There are also toxins, hormones, antibiotics, bacteria, and so many other undesirables to think about when eating animal products; a simple way to choose wisely might be to add more colorful, organic and fresh fruits and vegetables to your plate. Eat plant-based foods for a safer climate, better health, improved productivity, liberated animals, and you can save money too.

As common sense prevails, and vegan meats are becoming the current largest trend in the tech industry; here’s how one individual describes our current predicament:

“The two big questions are, how do we feed 9 billion people by 2050, and what can we do about climate change?” asks Good Food Institute executive director Bruce Friedrich. “Plant-based…products are the answer to both of these questions.”



Plant-based meat substitutes, like the tofu pictured here, take up to 10 times less greenhouse gases to produce compared to meat.

Plant-based meat substitutes, like the tofu pictured here that I ordered at a restaurant recently, take up to 10 times less greenhouse gases to produce compared to meat.

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