We at The Optimist Daily have written a lot before about the environmental benefits of lab-grown meat and insects as an alternative protein source, and the body of research for this cultural and scientific protein shift keeps growing.
A new study published in Nature Food found that replacing traditional meat protein in European diets with “novel foods” could reduce environmental impacts by over 80 percent.
Simply switching one’s diet has an enormous impact across different areas. Traditional meat production requires huge amounts of land and water to raise animals. In addition to many factory-farm-raised animals being cruelly treated, this system produces a great deal of methane, one of the most harmful greenhouse gasses.
This new study looked at alternative, non-animal food sources such as lab-grown meat, berries, ground-up crickets and flies, algae, kelp, mushroom protein powder, and lab-grown egg whites. They found that these were rich in protein and essential vitamins and that these sources showed an 80 percent decrease in land and water use.
“With significant reductions in animal-sourced foods and substitutions with novel or future foods and plant-based protein alternatives, you can have significant reductions in environmental impacts in terms of global warming potential, land use, and water use,” said Rachel Mazac of the University of Helsinki, the study’s lead author, as reported by BBC News.
The study also concluded that just by consuming less meat and more vegetables average consumers could greatly reduce their carbon footprint, although they are strongly advocating the introduction of insect-based protein. These are rich in important nutrients like iron, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, B12, and folic acid. A diet switch like this is also highly recommended by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
“We don’t want to tell people what to eat,” said ecologist Hans-Otto Pörtner, co-chair of the IPCC’s working group on impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability, as reported by Nature. “But it would indeed be beneficial, for both climate and human health, if people in many rich countries consumed less meat, and if politics would create appropriate incentives to that effect.”
Source Study: Nature Communications — Incorporation of novel foods in European diets can reduce global warming potential, water use and land use by over 80% | Nature Food