Plant-Based Meat Benefits People and the Planet


Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

August 1, 2022


A study from the University of Bath reports that 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.


The paper (“Plant-Based Animal Product Alternatives Are Healthier and More Environmentally Sustainable than Animal Products”) appears in Future Foods, published by Elsevier. The paper 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.


Plant-based meat and dairy alternatives “offer a healthier and more environmentally sustainable solution which takes into account consumer preferences and behavior,” the study concluded.


“There are increasingly strong reasons to move away from industrial animal agriculture for the good of the environment, animals, our personal health, and public health. Plant-based animal product alternatives (PB-APAs) represent a highly feasible way to reduce animal product consumption, since they address the core consumer decision drivers of taste, price, and convenience,” wrote study author Chris Bryant, PhD, a psychologist.


“PB-APAs tend to displace demand for animal products, not other plant foods, and are more able to do this compared to whole plant foods alone. This paper reviews 43 studies on the healthiness and environmental sustainability of PB-APAs compared to animal products. In terms of environmental sustainability, PB-APAs are more sustainable compared to animal products across a range of outcomes including greenhouse gas emissions, water use, land use, and other outcomes.


“In terms of healthiness, PB-APAs present a number of benefits, including generally favorable nutritional profiles, aiding weight loss and muscle synthesis, and catering to specific health conditions. Moreover, several studies present ways in which PB-APAs can further improve their healthiness using optimal ingredients and processing.


“As more conventional meat producers move into plant-based meat products, consumers and policymakers should resist naturalistic heuristics about PB-APAs and instead embrace their benefits for the environment, public health, personal health, and animals.”


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.


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