Plant-based meat by far the best climate investment, report finds


One of the largest consulting organizations in the world claims that investments in meat substitutes made from plants have a much bigger impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions than other green initiatives.

According to a report from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), investing in developing and expanding the production of meat and dairy substitutes reduced greenhouse gas emissions by three times as much per dollar as investing in green cement technology, seven times as much as investing in green buildings, and eleven times as much as investing in zero-emission vehicles.

Due to the significant difference in greenhouse gas emissions between the production of conventional meat and dairy products and the growth of plants, investments in plant-based meat substitutes have a strong influence on emissions. For instance, compared to tofu, beef produces six to thirty times higher emissions.

According to BCG, spending on alternative proteins—which also includes fermented foods and meat made from cells—will increase from $1 billion (£830 million) in 2019 to $5 billion in 2021. Currently, just 2% of meat, eggs, and dairy products are substitutes; however, the analysis projects that this percentage will increase to 11% by 2035. This would lower emissions by a quantity that is approximately equal to the production of all aviation worldwide. However, according to BCG, the market for meat substitutes might expand considerably more quickly as a consequence of improved goods, more manufacturing, and legal reforms that facilitate marketing and sales.

Malte Clausen, a partner at BCG, stated that "widespread adoption of alternative proteins can play a crucial role in mitigating climate change." We refer to this as the "untapped climate potential" since investing in alternative proteins has a greater economic impact than investing in any other area of the economy.

Even while the need for alternative proteins is growing quickly, he said that although there has been a lot of investment in solar panels, wind turbines, and electric cars, which is excellent and helps to cut emissions, there has not yet been an equal amount of investment in alternative proteins. "If you as an investor actually care about effect, then you need to grasp this sector."

Even though it produces just 18% of the calories and 37% of the protein that humans need, the production of meat and dairy products consumes 83 % of cropland and accounts for 60% of the greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture. When people switch from eating meat to eating plants, less forest is lost for the growth of pasture and fodder, and less of the powerful greenhouse gas methane, which is generated by sheep and cattle, is released into the atmosphere.

According to a different BCG forecast from 2021, traditional meat consumption will "peak meat" in Europe and North America by 2025 and then begin to decline. In 2019, a different consulting firm, AT Kearney, estimated that most meat products consumed by people in 2040 would not originate from animals that had been murdered.

According to scientists, giving up meat and dairy products is the single best method to lessen your influence on the environment, and significant reductions in meat consumption in developed countries are necessary to avert the climate disaster. Plant-based diets are among the top three climate solutions, according to the Project Drawdown organization, which evaluates almost 100 ideas.

According to the BCG research, "Alternative proteins have barely garnered a fraction of the investment spent in other areas." Despite the fact that building emissions are 57 percent lower than those related to food production, buildings have gotten 4.4 times more funding for mitigation than food production. According to the survey, switching from traditional beef to alternatives causes customers significantly less disruption than cutting back on travel or remodeling their houses.

With the help of the Global Financial Markets Association, BCG created a technique to assess the various emissions reductions brought on by investments in various industries. The new paper also included contributions from Blue Horizon, an investor in non-traditional proteins.

According to Bjoern Witte of Blue Horizon, as technology enables further innovation, "the goods customers are seeing on the shelves today will be followed by a wave of cleaner, healthier, and tastier alternative proteins." Really, we are only at the beginning.

According to Dr. Jonathan Foley of Project Drawdown, "Food, land use, and agriculture account for around a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, with beef accounting for more than half of that total. Therefore, it is important to concentrate on this enormous sector, which has received very little funding.

According to Foley, "[Alternative proteins] offer a potentially significant climate answer." "However, it shouldn't be considered as a stand-alone solution and might be paired with many others, like lowering overall food waste, switching to a diet that is higher in plants, and producing the meat and dairy products we still might consume better," the author writes.

A shift toward plant-based meats, according to Malte, might also benefit in resolving the food crisis. You are eliminating the "middleman," whether it is a chicken, pig, or cow. It's simple math: if you use all of these crops for human use alone, as opposed to providing them to animals to consume, you'll need fewer crops overall, which will ease the system's limits.

A poll of more than 3,700 people in the UK, US, China, France, Germany, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates was also included in the research. It was discovered that if protein alternatives had a good influence on the environment, 30% of customers would switch to those products. At least some of the alternative protein products that consumers had tried were well-liked, according to about 90% of respondents. Consumers, however, according to the poll, anticipated the goods to be priced similarly to those they were replacing.

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