This article looks into meat and sustainability. This is the last in a four-part series looking into meat consumption and how sustainable this is.


It is based on the book and documentary Meat the Truth, which was released in 2010.

Each article covers a slightly different topic. The last 3 weeks have looked into how global meat consumption is predicted to double in the next 50 years, how livestock farming places heavy demands on land, water and energy and contributes towards climate change. You can find links to these below.




Replacing meat consumption by vegetable consumption is necessary to reduce the impact and emissions from agriculture

 The theme of this week’s article is all about meat substitutes and what role they can play in lessening the impact and emissions from the agriculture sector.

Building on the analysis of the previous 3 weeks, it should be clear that the agriculture sector is currently having a very serious impact on the environment and change is currently needed.

In chapter 1 Harry Aiking shares an interesting perspective on meat substitutes. He had the following to say:

Please note that ‘meat replacers’ generally contain 20-20% egg protein

He also points towards research which showed that transitioning to meat substitutes could result in a 3-4 fold lower requirement of agricultural land and freshwater.

Chapter 7 by Van Drunen, Van Beukering and Aiking on the true price of meat was a very interesting chapter. They highlighted how a Pigouvian tax could reduce the demand for meat products and help the environment.

Such a tax would correct the market failure due to externalities. The average rate of the Pigouvian Tax should be at least €2.06 for conventional pork, that is 31%^ of the consumer price.”

In Chapter 8 by Dirk-Jan Verdonk he had a very interesting perspective on meat and just how sustainable this can ever be considered to be if it ends with death.

Killing and welfare are interlocked: death unarguably puts an end to any state of welfare.

In chapter 10 Jason Matheny produced a really interesting paper on meat substitutes. He highlighted that:

Plant-based analogs have significant advantages over meat. Analogs have no cholesterol and are low in saturated fat.

He also points towards how engineered solutions could be one solution:

Even if plant-based meat analogs gain greater acceptance, some consumers may still prefer to eat meat for cultural or culinary reasons. Tissue engineered ‘cultured meat’ is one possible solution for this market segment.

He also points towards how engineered solutions are not so different from the current meat options that are available:

Although cultured meat is, to be sure, a highly artificial product, little is natural about today’s chicken nuggets, made from a ‘meat slurry’ processed from the carcases of 10,000 chickens raised in metal warehouses and pumped full of drugs.

In chapter 12 Jones, De Meyere and De Geus touch upon the potential win-win opportunities of moving away from meat consumption. They highlight that:

It is striking in this case that healthier diets (i.e. diets with less red meat and processed foods for example) are generally also low carbon – thus opening the potential ‘win-win’ of a low carbon food system (and associated food culture) which delivers better health for people.

They also come forward with one potential solution:

What we need is a food equivalent of the ‘waste hierarchy’ denoting clearly that, in terms of the environment and of health, the best diet is vegetarian.”

What you need to know

This article looked into meat and sustainability. This was the last in a four-part series looking into meat consumption and how sustainable this is.

In this article, we explored how meat substitutes can lessen the impact and emissions from the agriculture sector.

We looked at evidence which showed that many meat substitutes contain high percentages of egg, how Pigouvian taxation could help this transition, how meat substitutes are a healthier option and how cultured meat could get people to eat a more humane and lower impact form of meat.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think of the relationship between meat and sustainability?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

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