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Vegetarian Meat, for Protecting the Environment?

  Demand for vegetarian meat substitutes (vegetarian meat) is on the rise around the world. An analysis by the Plant-Based Food Association and the Good Food Institute found that U.S. sales of plant-based products rose 27% in 2020 from the previous year. A recent study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine reported that the number of people consuming plant-based products has doubled from 6.7% to 13.1% over the past decade. Analysts at Barclays expect the global vegetarian meat market to exceed $140 billion by 2030.

  Much of this growth stems from an increase in the number of environmentally conscious consumers looking to relieve pressure on the planet by reducing meat consumption, especially since beef production emits more than twice the carbon dioxide that plant-based foods do.

  Jerusha Klemperer, director of the nonprofit FoodPrint, said most meat substitutes market themselves as substitutes for industrially farmed meat with a dire environmental impact. The FoodPrint report concluded that highly processed meat alternatives may have a lower environmental impact than livestock farming. For example, producing a 4-ounce Beyond Meat plant-based burger requires only one-tenth the land needed to produce a 4-ounce beef burger. However, the FoodPrint report argues that just like other processed foods and conventional meats, vegetarian meat is still a product of the industrialized agri-food industry.

  Because traditional farming methods still use high levels of fertilizers and pesticides, and the production of these chemicals still emits large amounts of greenhouse gases, their use can cause the natural nutrient cycle to be out of balance.

  To make healthier, greener choices, the report recommends that consumers compare vegetarian meats with other plant-based proteins. According to FoodPrint, a kilogram of Impossible Food's plant-based burgers emits 3.5 times more greenhouse gases than a kilogram of tofu. In contrast, pulses have a smaller environmental footprint and are one of the best sources of protein in terms of land use, water usage and greenhouse gas emissions. Soy protein sources can provide a healthier way to avoid meat.

  FoodPrint's report also highlights another concern: vegetarian meat companies. Many vegetarian meat companies have attracted a lot of investment, for example Impossible Food has received nearly $2 billion from investors such as Mirae Asset Global Investments, Coatue, Temasek and XN, and the investment is accompanied by expectations of profits, so Foodprint believes that , which is not a viable way to build an entirely new food system, especially when the cost of vegetarian meat remains high. The report argues that such practices could lead to such companies still replicating the problems that already exist in the agri-food system, including unsustainable sources of ingredients and poor labor conditions.

  Rather than attracting more carnivorous consumers, vegetarian meat has changed the face of existing vegetarian options, replacing healthier, less impactful vegetarian options such as traditional beans and traditional veggie burgers, the report concluded. Further complicating the problem the vegetarian meat industry claims to be solving.