Investors have poured billions of dollars into efforts to replace animal proteins with plant-based substitutes or even laboratory-grown animal cells. Replacing meats with these products is certainly a favorable development for the climate, but it is not likely to offset livestock agriculture’s climate and land use impacts anytime soon.
According to research at Stanford University, even optimistic estimates are that only something like 5% of dietary protein will come from these technologies by 2030. That just isn’t fast enough to put a real dent in the food-related emissions problem.
Stanford environmental scientist David Lobell suggests that there should be much more focus on reducing emissions of animal-based systems. There really hasn’t been much effort in this area because it is only recently that the climate impact of animal agriculture has been a topic of public concern. One problem is that it is difficult for investors to monetize investments in approaches for lowering animal agriculture emissions. These might include alternative feeds or supplements or vaccinations that inhibit methane-producing microorganisms in animals’ digestive systems.
Another approach to the problem is changing the mix of animal proteins in people’s diets. Chicken and pork are half as bad as dairy per pound of protein, and about one-tenth as bad as beef, in terms of emissions.
Dairy is a major issue. There has been quite a lot of progress in increasing the use of dairy-free milk, but over the past 40 years, Americans have cut their consumption of milk in half but doubled their consumption of cheese. Progress in dairy-free cheese has not been anywhere near as successful as that of dairy-free milk. But new products are entering the marketplace all the time.
Is fake meat a real solution? Stanford expert explains
Photo, posted June 17, 2019, courtesy of Christolph Scholz via Flickr.
Earth Wise is a production of WAMC Northeast Public Radio
Bill Taylor says
This segment did not go as deep as it could. The way Gabe Brown ranches and the predominant CAFO farming of meat are worlds apart in terms of climate, human health, and animal welfare. Grazing animals moved frequently (then by predator pressure, now by moving the animals using fencing, plus drones or cowboys) benefit the soil, build the soil sponge, and create nutritionally balanced meat (animals with access to the plants they need when they need them means omega-3 rich meat). How vegetables are raised also varies in its climate impact. The John Robbins data is overly simplified and repeating it without looking deeper prevents wisdom and actually solving the climate crisis. Please look into Soil Sponge, Walter Jehne, Didi Pershouse, John Kempf, Gabe Brown, and also marine permaculture and Brian Von Herzen and you will get an abundance of good science and good practices that will rapidly address the water cycle, carbon cycle, and go far beyond the emissions reduction focus of too many organizations. Not a bad goal, but too slow to alone make much of an impact where land management can quickly turn the climate crisis around. By looking into the names listed above you can probably get a dozen or more good segments for your valuable show.