Will “alternative proteins” save the planet? Not so fast.
An opinion piece in Civil Eats makes a convincingly argues that the enthusiasm behind “meatless meat” or “alternative proteins” must be checked, particularly when it comes to arguments regarding their benefit to the planet. According to Patrick Brown, the CEO of Impossible Foods, meat substitutes are “the last chance to save the planet.”
Author Philip Howard writes,
Firstly, the idea that these alternative proteins can save the planet is highly speculative. These claims are based on a narrow assessment of which products can deliver the most protein for the least CO2. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Products like the Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger source their ingredients from chemical-intensive (and therefore fossil fuel-intensive) monocultures and rely on heavy processing—all of which has major impacts on human health, biodiversity, and climate change.
Additionally, as Rob Verkerk, PhD, founder of ANH-International points out, some livestock farming systems, in particular those that are pasture-based, are already carbon net zero. These operations are worlds away from the concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, that are indeed responsible for greenhouse gas emissions. The point is, red meat isn’t the problem, the production system is.
There are also human health issues with lab-grown meat. We reported previously that some companies genetically engineer a compound, heme, that gives the “meat” the impression that it is “bleeding” like real meat. Has genetically engineered “heme” been tested for safety? No. But that hasn’t prevented the FDA from giving the green light in yet another capitulation to Big Food.