Ethical Council’s Report: Plant-Based Meat Uses 72-99% Less Water, 47-99% Less Land & Emits 30-90% Fewer Greenhouse Gases

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Tooday the Nuffield Council on Bioethics published a new ‘Bioethics briefing note’ which examines the ethical issues of meat alternative products, such as implications on health, the environment and animal welfare, and their role in the food system.

The organisation, an independent body that examines and advises on ethical issues arising from developments in bioscience and health, says it compiled the briefing note to highlight that “more evidence is needed to determine if meat alternatives really are more sustainable and healthier than conventional meat in the long-term.”

The council’s note includes the following:

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Image: Nuffield Council
  • Lifecycle assessments comparing plant-based meat alternative products to conventional meat products find that plant-based meat uses 72-99% less water, 47-99% less land, emits 30-90% fewer greenhouse gases and causes 51-91% less aquatic nutrient pollution.
  • However, it points out that intensive crop monoculture can drive deforestation and climate change, as with the example of soy production in South America.
  • The note states that while “meat alternatives offer health benefits over conventional meat, such as providing fibre and less cholesterol, ” some of these products are highly processed and contain equal amounts of fat and calories as their meat counterparts.

Hugh Whittall, Director of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics said in a statement to vegconomist: “People choose meat alternatives for a number of reasons – including health, environmental impact or animal welfare – it might be that people don’t mind trading off the health aspects if it means they are helping the environment, but there needs to be clear labelling and marketing of these products so that people can make that choice.

“Other than more evidence is needed, we think it’s important to have clear marketing and labelling about the ingredients, nutritional content and processes involved, as well as transparency in the sources of ingredients and their sustainability, so that people can make informed choices about what they’re purchasing”