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Plant-Based Diet Curbs Food Production Emissions

Matthew Hayek, assistant professor of environmental studies at New York University, explained that the institutions affect the available food choices.

Hayek adds that the food choices that people make, all depend on what is available in the market.

That means that the greenest option isn’t always available to people who want to reduce their carbon footprint. If it is, it isn’t the most appealing or practical.

Food and Emissions

What people eat has a huge impact on the environment. Food production is estimated to be responsible for 35% of global warming greenhouse gas emissions, with meat polluting more than twice as much as fruits, grains, and greens.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report in April urging world leaders, particularly those in developed countries, to support a transition to sustainable, healthy, low-emission diets to help mitigate the worst effects of the climate crisis.

Producers, retailers, restaurants, workplaces, and the government must all work together to make plant-based foods more convenient, appealing, and tasty, according to experts.

Challenge in Changing Diets

According to the IPCC report, eating less meat is one of the most effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, aid deforestation, and even reduce the risk of pandemic-causing diseases spreading from animals to humans.

The shifts needn’t be extreme. Adopting a healthy Mediterranean-style diet could be nearly as effective as going vegetarian or vegan, the report found.

This includes food such as those rich in grains, vegetables, nuts, and moderate amounts of fish and poultry. According to one study, if everyone followed basic nutritional guidelines, which for most people in developed countries means eating more fruits and vegetables and eating less red meat, emissions could drop by 29% by 2050.

Caroline Bushnell at the Good Food Institute (GFI), a non-profit that advocates for plant-based and cultured meat, pointed out that it is hard for people to change their diets.

Consumers frequently express a desire to eat more healthily and sustainably. When faced with a choice between a dish that is better for the environment but not particularly appetizing and a mouth-watering, meat-heavy option, people tend to follow their instincts rather than their conscience.

Bushnell cited the choice between fries and a side salad as an example. She explained further that most people won’t pick the salad because it is not an equivalent option.

She pointed out that GFI wants large food manufacturers and processors to change how people’s favorite foods are made. Rather than advocating for behavior change, she suggests to take a supply-side approach, The Guardian reports.

Read also: [STUDY] Plant-based Omega 3 Can Reduce the Risks of Heart Disease and Other Heart Problems 

Food Industry Actions

Plant-based proteins and lab-grown meat are helping big meat companies and consumer food brands respond to a growing demand for more climate-friendly foods while also reducing their emissions.

McDonald’s is working on the new McPlant. Burger King sells Impossible Whoppers and by 2030, the food chain plans to make half of its menu plant-based in the UK. By 2025, Ikea has promised the same in its restaurants.

Tyson, which now calls itself a “protein” company, has launched its own brand of plant-based products, and Perdue makes hybrid chicken-veggie nuggets for kids. JBS, the world’s largest meat company, bought a cultivated meat startup last year and plans to begin selling lab-grown steaks, sausages, and hamburgers in 2024.

Related article: New High-Tech Vegan Meat is Helping Us Evolve 

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