Plant-based meats are on the rise. But are they sustainable?

By Mark Fawcett-Atkinson, National Observer, December 3, 2020

Vegetables are becoming increasingly common in an unusual place: the grocery store meat aisle.

Sales of alternative, or plant-based, meats are booming worldwide. Driven by skyrocketing demand from consumers striving to cut back on meat and companies facing increasing pressure to reduce their environmental footprint, the market is anticipated to reach $23.1 billion by 2025.

And major meat companies have been racing to meet demand, with big players such as McDonald's and Maple Leaf Foods recently launching a suite of plant-based meats.

Meat contributes up to eight billion tonnes of CO2 per year, roughly equivalent to the annual emissions of 1.6 billion cars, and according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a global shift to diets that contain less meat is essential to keep global warming under the 1.5 C limit agreed to in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

“It’s well-known that eating lower down the food chain is more environmentally efficient,” said Navin Ramankutty, professor of global environmental change and food security at the University of British Columbia.

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