Gradually replacing 20 percent of global beef and lamb consumption with meat-textured proteins also known as ‘Faux Beef’ could cut agriculture-related CO2 emissions and deforestation in half by 2050, a new study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) reported.
Faux meat derived by culturing microbial or fungi-based cells undergoes a fermentation process, analogous to that for wine or beer. The cells feed off glucose -- from sugar cane or beets, for example -- to produce proteins, which means some cropland is needed for production, but far less than for red meat, according to the study published in the latest issue of the journal Nature.
Compared to a current-trends projection for population growth and food demand, swapping half of red meat consumption for so-called microbial proteins would see reductions in tree loss and CO2 pollution of more than 80 percent.
The global food system accounts for roughly a third of all carbon pollution, and beef production is the main culprit within the agricultural sector, according to the UN's climate science advisory panel. It not only destroys CO2-absorbing tropical forests to make room for grazing pastures and cattle feed crops. In addition, belching livestock are a major source of methane, 30 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2 on a 100-year timescale.
Microbe-based meat alternatives have been on supermarket shelves for decades. But as the world scrambles for climate solutions, these and other ‘novel foods’ are poised to grow into a major industry within decades, according to market forecasts.
In addition to environmental benefits, experts stress that mycoprotein is an ideal substitute for meat because it is rich in protein and contains all the essential amino acids. Agricultural water use, along with the emissions of yet another greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide, would also be reduced.