In short: Media has confirmed fake meat’s not much healthier for you than feedlot meat, plus it’s super processed with many more ingredients and processing steps vs ‘real meat’.
Scientists at the University of Arizona created an assessment to include all parts of soy protein (isolate) production. In the end, they determined that the environmental impact of soy protein production was actually worse than whole animal meats like pork and chicken and that it was exactly equivalent to industrial beef agriculture2. Surprised?
Straight from their report: “This work demonstrates that it should not be assumed that every plant-based food would be better than an equivalent animal-based food when comparing environmental impacts.”
Here’s a summary of the key environmental and sustainability concerns regarding fake meat:
- The benchmark to evaluate “sustainability” is exceptionally low. It’s based on industrial feedlot meat, which is the vicious cycle responsible for an estimated 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions3. It’s worth noting not all meat is made in this manner, so we need to understand exactly what’s being said when we hear “it’s more sustainable than meat”.
- Much of the supply chain for fake meats relies on unsustainable inputs or processes (e.g. pesticides & herbicides used to grow soy = vicious cycle in soil ecology; energy requirements to maintain homeostasis (temperature, sterile conditions) for lab-raised ‘meats’).
- We need to prioritize biodiversity and soil fertility over soil destruction. Our obsession with singular crops and products can proliferate monocropping &/or increased carbon footprint via shipping requirements. (America can’t provide all the yellow peas needed to supply Beyond Meat’s rapidly expanding distribution partners – where’s all that pea protein gonna come from? I’m cautiously optimistic they’ll bring other legumes into the mix, but concerned we’ll still get overly fixated on singular ingredients)
- Escalating pressure on the small-to-midsize farms to follow suit, “get big, or get out”. Again, diversity makes us stronger; yet in farming, it seems only the big (or the sell-outs) can survive.
Bottom line: If you want to try fake meat, decide on the merit of taste, curiosity, or novelty. Just don’t do it in the name of health – for yourself or the earth.The best move for sustainability – and your health – is to eat more real plants (vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and legumes) and small amounts of wild and sustainable animal proteins if you wish — all as local as possible, of course!
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