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Plant-Based Meat Greener, Nutrition Comparison Inconclusive says Study

In a new study challenging prevailing narratives in the meat industry, Australia's Macquarie University researchers have presented evidence suggesting significant environmental advantages of plant-based meat over traditional animal beef.


The study, aimed at providing quality information on the merits and demerits of plant-based and animal-based products, highlights the need for comprehensive analysis in the face of industry-driven claims.


According to the published findings, plant-based beef alternatives are responsible for more than 90% less greenhouse gas emissions compared to their animal counterparts. Professor Andrew McGregor, a human geographer involved in the study, points out the stark contrast in climate change impact and land utilisation between the two. "The majority of emissions from traditional beef stem from methane produced by cattle, with transportation and refrigeration playing minor roles," says Professor McGregor.


PFN Ai-Compartive depiction between plant-based and animal meat

Source: PFN Ai


However, when it comes to nutritional value, the study presents a more nuanced view. Associate Professor Seema Mihrshahi, a public health researcher, says plant-based beef is lower in energy and fats but higher in carbohydrates, fibre, and salt. However, based on the studies criteria, plant-based falls short nutritionally.


Despite nutritional disparities, plant-based beef patties are seen as a beneficial option for those transitioning to a plant-based diet or reducing red meat consumption, given their similar texture and taste to beef burgers.


Source: PFN Public domain.


The research, independently funded by an alternative protein producer, calls attention to the predominance of industry-funded studies in sustainability and nutrition research. Professor Andrew McGregor emphasises the urgent need for more independent studies covering a broader spectrum of considerations including employment, working conditions, animal welfare, and biodiversity, enabling more informed dietary choices among consumers.


This Macquarie University study not only sheds light on the environmental benefits of plant-based beef but also draws attention to the complexity of assessing nutritional superiority, highlighting the crucial 'next question' for the plant-based sector; that of nutritional integrity and the potential role 'hyper-proteins' may play in ingredient formulations.


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