Do you want to save the planet?  Eat protein from mushrooms and algae instead of red meat  Adrienne Matei

Do you want to save the planet? Eat protein from mushrooms and algae instead of red meat Adrienne Matei

RReplacing only one-fifth of the red meat we eat with microbial proteins derived from fungi or algae could reduce annual deforestation by as much as 56% by 2050, according to a study published this spring.

Climate scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research simulated four future scenarios in which humans replace either 0%, 20%, 50% or 80% of the red meat in our diet with microbial protein, which is a low-calorie, high-protein and high-fiber fermented product. which is already an ingredient in some commercial all-meat, including Quorn and Nature’s Bargains. Researchers looked at how this dietary change could affect global forests by 2050.

Currently, the planet loses around 10 million hectares of forest a year, an estimated 95% of this is tropical forest, and 75% of this is driven by the expansion of agriculture, namely cattle farming and soybean plantations for animal feed. Deforestation contributes to climate imbalances, desertification and water scarcity, greenhouse gas emissions, floods and erosion, and the destruction of biological diversity, including important crop pollinators.

But replacing only 20% of our meat with microbial protein could more than halve the rate of deforestation and reduce carbon emissions associated with livestock by 2050, the study found. Microbial food outperforms “cultivation of basic crops in terms of calorie and protein yield per land area”, write the authors of a separate 2021 study on the efficiency of the food source. On the other hand, livestock take up almost 80% of the global agricultural area while producing less than 20% of the world’s calories, a hugely inefficient system. Science suggests that these fungal proteins may play a meaningful role in meeting the ongoing challenges of climate change and food security as the population grows to an estimated 9.7 billion people by 2050.

Encouragingly, meat substitutes – including those made from laboratory-grown animal cells, plants and microbial proteins – have already proven to be quite popular with the general public. The meat substitute market is forecast to increase dramatically from $ 4.2 billion in sales in 2020 to $ 28 billion in 2025, according to IPES-Food. And many new companies, including Colorado-based Meati and California’s Prime Roots, are betting that tasty mushroom-based all-meat is the future.

If “microbial proteins” do not sound appetizing to you, the good news is that any reduction in red meat in our diet is net positive, regardless of which vegetarian alternative we replace it with. Already, a growing number of us are changing our diet; The proportion of people practicing flexitarism rose from 28% in 2017 to 39% in 2019, according to market research. In fact, researchers decided years ago that if we all just meet our basic nutritional recommendations, which for those of us in developed countries primarily mean eating more plants and less meat, greenhouse gas emissions could fall by 29% by 2050.

But while limiting red meat sounds good enough, it can be a little complicated to convince millions to change their diet. A recent Ipsos survey found that despite 68% of adults in 31 countries feeling “concerned” about climate change, only 44% said they were likely to reduce meat consumption by replacing meat with alternative protein sources.

This restraint suggests both the power of the convention and the widespread belief that it is the responsibility of companies and authorities to deal with climate crises. The latter is absolutely true – after all, business and government must do more to support a climate-secure future, and world leaders have promised to end deforestation by 2030 at COP26.

But a similar promise made at the 2014 summit failed; and with 65% of Americans reporting that they feel that the federal government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change, it can be both effective and empowering for individuals to make simple, green lifestyle changes to reduce climate change while continuing to demand large-scale action by management.

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