Plant-based ‘meat’ ‘healthier and more sustainable than animal products’

Plant-based dietary alternatives to animal products are better for the environment and for human health when compared with the animal products they are designed to replace, say the authors of a new study.

A new paper published in Future Foods argues that because these foods are ‘specifically formulated to replicate the taste, texture, and overall eating experience of animal products’, they are a much more effective way of reducing demand for meat and dairy than simply encouraging people to cook vegetarian whole foods.

The study, conducted by psychologists at the University of Bath, concludes that plant-based meat and dairy alternatives ‘offer a healthier and more environmentally sustainable solution which takes into account consumer preferences and behaviour.’

The review examined 43 studies into the health and environmental impacts of plant-based foods, as well as consumer attitudes. One study found that almost 90% of consumers who ate plant-based meat and dairy were in fact meat-eaters or flexitarians; another found that plant-based products with a similar taste, texture, and price to processed meat had the best chance of replacing meat.

The paper also found that these plant-based products caused lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions than the animal products they were replacing. One paper found replacing 5% of German beef consumption with pea protein could reduce CO2 emissions by up to eight million tonnes a year. Another found that compared to beef burgers, plant-based burgers were associated with up to 98% less greenhouse gas emissions.

The report authors suggest that plant-based products generally require much less agricultural land, need less water and cause less pollution than animal products.

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