woman on a rooftop eating a burger Plant-based burgers are much better for the planet than their meaty counterparts, a new study says - Media Credit: PNW Production | Pexels

Plant-Based Meat Comes Out Best For The Planet In Study Of 57,000 Food Products

Dried beef products were among the worst for the planet


2 Minutes Read

A new study evaluating the environmental impact of thousands of food products suggests that veggie sausages and burgers are up to 10 times better for the planet than meat.

The study from the University of Oxford evaluated 57,000 food products from supermarkets across the UK and Ireland.

Researchers looked at four factors: greenhouse gas emissions, water stress, land use, and eutrophication potential. (The latter refers to the over-fertilization of water and soil, which deteriorates quality.)

Among the worst for the planet were dried beef products, like jerky and biltong. But a number of plant-based meat products, like sausages and burgers, had a fifth to less than a tenth of the environmental impact of their animal meat counterparts.

Products made with fruits, sugar, flour, and vegetables (like soups, cereals, salads, etc.) also had a low impact on the environment.

Professor Peter Scarborough, an Oxford Professor of Population Health, said the findings are “very exciting.” 

Making sustainable diets easy

“For the first time, we have a transparent and comparable method for assessing the environmental footprint of multi-ingredient processed foods,” Scarborough said in a statement.

“These types of foods make up most of the supermarket shopping we do, but until now there was no way of directly comparing their impact on the environment.”

He noted that the work could help to develop tools to assist consumers in making more sustainable shopping choices, but it could also “prompt retailers and food manufacturers to reduce the environmental impact of the food supply.”

That, he noted, would make it easier for everyone to have a more sustainable diet.

In the UK, people are already changing the way they shop. This is, in part, because of the ongoing cost of living crisis that has seen meat prices soar. 

In June, one survey by The Vegan Society found that a third of UK consumers are either cutting out meat from their weekly shop or reducing it.

Another study from earlier this month reported that more than 25 percent of UK adults are reducing meat amid the cost of living crisis.

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The Author

Charlotte Pointing

Charlotte writes about sustainable beauty, fashion, and food. She spent more than 4 years editing in leading vegan media, and has a degree in history and a postgraduate in cultural heritage.

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Brett Christoffel
1 month ago

Plants for the win, win and win!

1 month ago

Ummmm never mind the damage to human beings eating the highly processed “de-naturalised” conglomeration of things formerly plant. You know what else is plant based? Cyanide. Not planning on adding that to my diet any time either.

Plant Based News Admin
Plant Based News Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Rebelwave

Hi, could you provide evidence of the damage plant-based meat brings to humans?

1 month ago

Recent developments in the food industry have enabled new plant-based meats and dairy substitutes to be created; Among them, a proportion of those are classified as ultra-processed foods. The constituents of ultra-processed foods include additives such as texturizers, dyes, and emulsifiers.Ultra-processed foods are defined as formulations of substances that are taken from foods (the three major macronutrients starches, fats, and protein isolates) combined with flavors, colors, emulsifiers, and other cosmetic additives. The true definition of the term ultra-processed foods is contested; however, these products have characteristic features which include high energy density, high sodium content, high fat and free sugar content, and poor in vitamins and minerals as well as dietary fiber.

Ultra-processed foods are commonly marketed as healthy, as they fall under the vegan label. These ultra-processed foods fall under the NOVA classification system. The Nova classification was produced in 2014 by Brazil, the first country in the world to release dietary guidelines based on the degree of food processing.

Plant Based News Admin
Plant Based News Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Rebelwave

Hi, the Beyond burger has 100-200mg less sodium than a traditional beef burger, 20 fewer calories, 50mg more calcium, 400mg more potassium, double the iron, 33mg more vitamin c, 5g less fat, 3g more fibre (as animal products have 0 fibre), 2-5g more protein, 45-75mg less cholesterol (as plant foods have 0 cholesterol), we could go on. Doesn’t quite sound ‘high fat’ ‘poor in fiber, vitamins and minerals’ or ‘high energy density’ compared to its counterparts.
This is backed by this study, https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/112/5/1188/5890315?login=false, which found regarding CVD risk factors, plant products improved several cardiovascular disease risk factors, including TMAO.
The nutrition label and contents of a food product matter more than whether a food is ‘processed’, because clearly a plant-based burger is significantly better for your health (and the environment, and then animals) than its beef counterpart. Nobody is eating burgers and cheese convinced that they’re a health food anyways, plant-based or not.

1 month ago

Also a large number of households cannot afford to buy as much meat as they used to, that’s why a third of households are buying less meat. The fact that people can’t afford to hear their homes should be the headline of that factoid.

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