Research has found that plant-based beef has far lower greenhouse gas emissions than animal-based beef

A research team from Macquarie University in Australia conducted a comparative study analyzing papers from various countries on the sustainability and nutrition of animal versus plant-based beef, revealing some interesting results.

Multiple studies have found that plant-based beef significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions, with reductions ranging from 86 to 97 percent. Plant-based beef also requires less land and is estimated to account for up to 5% of conventional animal-based beef.

“Approximately 75% of global agricultural land is used for animal production, and animal-based foods provide only 18% of human calories and 25% of protein in good global supply,” the paper states.

New research also shows that compared to animal-based beef, plant-based beef, especially beef for burgers, generally has lower energy and saturated fat content, but also lower protein content.

Emission source

Research results show that cattle emissions mainly come from methane released by intestinal fermentation when they burp and fart. Other important sources of emissions include the decomposition of manure, the production and application of pesticides and fertilizers to grow feed crops, and smaller emissions from the energy required for processing, freezing and transportation.

In contrast, emissions from plant-based beef come primarily from the pesticides and fertilizers used in crop production and the energy used in processing. The study’s lead researcher, human geographer Professor Andrew McGregor, said different processing methods and ingredients would affect emissions calculations for plant-based meat, but overall it was significantly more sustainable than conventional animal-based beef.

Has dietary fiber and lower total fat

The nutritional value of plant-based beef varies due to the varying quality of the product, which is customized to meet each country’s specific dietary guidelines.

After analyzing thirteen nutrition studies, researchers concluded that plant-based meats generally contain less protein, iron, zinc and saturated fat, while being higher in carbohydrates, fiber and sodium. The authors believe there is room for improvement in the nutritional profile of plant-based meats.

The findings, funded by cell-cultured milk startup All G Foods (which was not involved in the research process), are published in the latest issue of the Journal of Cleaner Production. The study aimed to clarify current scientific knowledge about the sustainability of plant-based beef amid conflicting information.

The paper states:

“Developing plant-based meat is one of the technological solutions to concerns about the healthfulness and sustainability of red meat consumption and growing global food insecurity. Our analysis shows that (…) Greenhouses for plant-based beef Gas emissions are lower than animal-based beef, and plant-based burgers have lower total fat and saturated fat than animal-based burgers.”