According to a new study that was just published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Future Foods, plant-based meat is better for the environment and has favorable nutritional characteristics when compared to the animal meat that it is supposed to replace.
The review consisted of looking at 43 different pieces of research on the topic of the effects of plant-based diets not only on human health but also on the environment, in addition to the literature on consumer attitudes. The research came to the conclusion that plant-based meat and dairy, even though consumers may incorrectly consider these products to be “unnatural” or “over-processed,” offer a healthier and more environmentally sustainable solution to animal meat that also takes into account the eating preferences of consumers. It is a much more effective method of reducing the demand for animal-based meat and dairy than simply encouraging people to cook whole plant foods at home because plant-based meat and other foods are specifically formulated to replicate the taste, texture, and overall eating experience of animal products. This is because plant-based meat and other foods are designed to taste and feel exactly the same as animal products.
According to the findings of the study, “although the majority of consumers have the correct perception that [plant-based meat] is a more nutritionally sound alternative, their perception of plant-based meat as unnatural or overly processed can lead some to incorrectly infer that they are unhealthy and/or harmful in other ways.” “Interests in the conventional animal product market that aim to create public doubt on these rival products may seek to worsen this view to further their own business goals.” The heuristic that animal meat is natural and, as a result, superior must be resisted by consumers as well as legislators. Instead, they should pay attention to the scientific evidence, which suggests that plant-based meat can be a sustainable and healthy component of our future protein landscape.
One of the studies that were included in the review suggested that almost 90 percent of consumers who ate plant-based meat and dairy were meat-eaters. Another of the studies discovered that plant-based products that had a similar taste, texture, and price to processed animal meat had the best chance of replacing meat. These studies were included in the review. In conclusion, the paper highlights the fact that plant-based meat is designed to substitute demand for animal products rather than other plant meals, and that it is more capable of doing so in comparison to complete plant foods alone.
The plant-based alternatives to health risks and benefits
One paper found that 40 percent of conventional meat products were classified as “less healthy” based on the United Kingdom's Nutrient Profiling Model, compared to just 14 percent of plant-based alternatives. Studies that focused on the healthiness of plant-based products found that they tend to have better nutritional profiles compared to animal products. Others discovered that plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy were beneficial for reducing body fat, increasing lean muscle mass, and may be utilized to treat a variety of diseases and health concerns.
In addition, the consumption of plant-based meat daily was connected with a 49% decreased risk of hip fracture, according to the findings of one study. Mycoprotein is a type of single-cell protein that is obtained from fungi. Compared to chicken meals, meat prepared from mycoprotein—which leads to a considerable reduction in insulin responses and may reduce insulin release in overweight people—was discovered in two independent studies to have this effect.
According to the report, there are many instances in which the processing of plant-based foods can increase nutrition. For example, one paper highlights how transforming beans into plant-based meat might improve people's capacity to digest them. The results of other studies demonstrated that eating foods derived from plants can help decrease cholesterol and enhance intestinal health.
Notably, food manufacturers may be able to improve the nutritional value of plant-based foods by including components like edible fungus, microalgae, or spirulina in their products. These additions can raise the levels of qualities such as amino acids, vitamins B and E, and antioxidants. There is a good chance that additional nutritional advancements will result from forthcoming developments in processing and ingredients.
According to the author of the report, Chris Bryant, Ph.D., of the University of Bath, who was quoted in a statement, “These products can shift demand away from animal products, and they can do this far more effectively than whole plant foods as they hit the key drivers consumers are looking for—taste, price, and convenience.”
The production of meat from plants is a more sustainable option.
The research also revealed that plant-based products created lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions than the animal products that they were replacing, which is another positive for the environment when it comes to the environmental benefits of plant-based meat. According to the findings of one piece of research, Germany could cut its annual CO2 emissions by eight million metric tons by switching just five percent of its beef consumption to pea protein. According to the findings of another study, plant-based burgers were connected with 98 percent lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions when compared to cow burgers.
The author of the paper discovered that items derived from plants required significantly less agricultural land, less water, created significantly less pollution, and required the same amount of energy or less than products derived from animals.
“I have found overwhelming evidence that, in addition to being far more sustainable compared to animal products in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, water use, and land use, plant-based animal product alternatives also have a wide range of health benefits,” said Bryant. “I have found overwhelming evidence that, in addition to being far more sustainable compared to animal products in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, water use, and land use.”
According to the findings of the paper, additional innovation in the processing and formulation of plant-based meat products has the potential to not only improve the nutritional profile of these products, but also to improve their flavor, texture, and cost. However, greater money for research is absolutely necessary to make these conceivable advancements a reality. According to Bryant, “additional research investment is now required to make these advancements a reality.” This will ensure that producers can provide products that have a better flavor, are healthier, and provide customers with sustainable solutions that are more likely to lower the demand for meat.