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      Meat substitutes: Resource demands and environmental footprints


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          • High impact of meat consumption can be reduced with substitute products.

          • Plant-based meat substitutes have on average 50% lower environmental impact.

          • Mycoprotein, microalgae, and meat cultures demonstrate a positive tendency.

          • Insect biomass can be a promising source for hybrid meat substitutes.


          The modern food system is characterized with high environmental impact, which is in many cases associated with increased rates of animal production and overconsumption. The adoption of alternatives to meat proteins (insects, plants, mycoprotein, microalgae, cultured meat, etc.) might potentially influence the environmental impact and human health in a positive or negative way but could also trigger indirect impacts with higher consumption rates. Current review provides a condensed analysis on potential environmental impacts, resource consumption rates and unintended trade-offs associated with integration of alternative proteins in complex global food system in the form of meat substitutes. We focus on emissions of greenhouse gases, land use, non-renewable energy use and water footprint highlighted for both ingredients used for meat substitutes and ready products. The benefits and limitations of meat substitution are highlighted in relation to a weight and protein content. The analysis of the recent research literature allowed us to define issues, that require the attention of future studies.

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          Most cited references107

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          Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems

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            Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers

            Food's environmental impacts are created by millions of diverse producers. To identify solutions that are effective under this heterogeneity, we consolidated data covering five environmental indicators; 38,700 farms; and 1600 processors, packaging types, and retailers. Impact can vary 50-fold among producers of the same product, creating substantial mitigation opportunities. However, mitigation is complicated by trade-offs, multiple ways for producers to achieve low impacts, and interactions throughout the supply chain. Producers have limits on how far they can reduce impacts. Most strikingly, impacts of the lowest-impact animal products typically exceed those of vegetable substitutes, providing new evidence for the importance of dietary change. Cumulatively, our findings support an approach where producers monitor their own impacts, flexibly meet environmental targets by choosing from multiple practices, and communicate their impacts to consumers.
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              Protecting the global ocean for biodiversity, food and climate


                Author and article information

                Resour Conserv Recycl
                Resour Conserv Recycl
                Resources, Conservation, and Recycling
                Elsevier B.V
                1 March 2023
                March 2023
                : 190
                : 106831
                [a ]German Institute of Food Technologies (DIL e.V.), Germany
                [b ]Institute for Food and Environmental Research (ILU e. V.), Germany
                [c ]Institute for Sustainable Chemistry, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany
                [d ]Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS), University of Helsinki, Finland
                [e ]Department of Agricultural Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Helsinki, Finland
                [f ]Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), Finland
                [g ]Elea Vertriebs- und Vermarktungsgesellschaft mbH, Germany
                Author notes
                [* ]Corresponding author. s.smetana@ 123456dil-ev.de
                S0921-3449(22)00663-2 106831
                © 2022 The Author(s)

                This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

                : 4 July 2022
                : 11 November 2022
                : 10 December 2022

                meat substitutes,meat alternatives,alternative protein sources,environmental impact,life cycle assessment,lca


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