A new report states that vegetarian food should be introduced in schools, prisons and hospitals to boost its popularity among the general public.
She says bringing veggie burgers, sausages and chips into the kitchens of such public establishments could lead to a shift away from animal meat.
Reducing red meat intake can improve our health as well as the health of the planet, as large-scale livestock farming destroys habitats and pumps out carbon dioxide and methane.
The new report says there are “social mores” around meat consumption that need to change, though the taste, texture and nutrition of “fake meat” still need improvement.
A new report says vegan food should be introduced in schools and prisons to create a shift away from meat and help with the climate crisis. Pictured is the burger plant (file image)
Where should burger patties be served?
The report suggests serving plant-based options in the following public institutions:
The new report was authored by experts at sustainable consultancy Systemiq in partnership with the University of Exeter, who make a series of recommendations for accelerating net zero.
“Switching to alternative proteins, and thus lowering demand for meat production, can reduce pressure to change land use and emissions from livestock farming,” they say in the report.
The preference for alternative proteins in public procurement policies worldwide could help suggest tipping points in their adoption.
Using public institutions (eg, government offices, hospitals, prisons, and schools) to purchase alternative proteins in bulk would rapidly increase demand and help producers achieve economies of scale, thus reducing costs.
By introducing large numbers of consumers to these products, public procurement can also enhance accessibility and help change social norms around meat consumption.
Already, alternative proteins are expected to reach about 10 percent of the market share by 2035, but this could be pushed to 20 percent with this policy change.
The report suggests bringing plant-based ‘meat’ into public institutions such as schools, although there are concerns that it is not as nutritious as real meat (file photo)
How do meat and dairy products harm the planet?
Eating meat, eggs and dairy harms the environment in many different ways.
Cows, pigs, and other farm animals release huge amounts of methane into the atmosphere. Although there is less methane in the atmosphere than other greenhouse gases, it is about 25 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat.
Raising livestock also means converting forests into farmland, which means cutting down trees that absorb carbon dioxide, adding to climate change. More trees are being cut down to convert the land to grow crops, as about a third of all grain produced in the world is used to feed animals raised for human consumption.
Factory farms and crop cultivation also require huge amounts of water, as 542 liters of water is used to produce just one chicken breast.
In addition, nitrogen-based fertilizers used on crops increase nitrous oxide emissions. Nitrous oxide is about 300 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere. These fertilizers can also end up in rivers, adding to pollution.
However, the authors note that plant-based meats still have to be altered to attract more customers—that is, to achieve a taste and texture that more closely resembles animal protein, which will require significant “technological innovation.”
Vegetarian meat will also have to overcome health and nutritional issues, as some fear it is not as nutritious as real meat.
Previous research has shown that some meat alternative products contain excessive amounts of salt.
Once these issues are overcome, it should also be easy to purchase plant protein in stores, online, and in restaurants.
Aside from plant, there are many other alternative forms of protein such as algae, insects, and even cultured (lab-grown) meat.
Experts point out that vegetable proteins are closest to reaching parity with animal meat in terms of cost, taste and texture.
The authors acknowledge the progress that has already been made, as plant proteins are now found in most prominent fast food chains.
Burger King sells plant-based burgers worldwide, including the Whopper made with soy protein, while McDonald’s McPlant is sold throughout Europe, including the United Kingdom.
Vegan products are also becoming more prominent in supermarkets, many of which have set up dedicated vegan sections in the past few years.
However, more research is needed to see what role supermarkets play in helping to switch to these alternatives, the report says.
Overall, lowering the demand for meat production can reduce the pressure to change land use and emissions from livestock farming.
Aside from plants, there are other alternative forms of protein such as algae, insects, and even cultured (lab-grown) meat. Experts point out that vegetable proteins are closest to reaching parity with animal meat in terms of cost, taste and texture.
Burger King sells plant-based burgers around the world, including the Whopper made with soy protein, while McDonald’s McPlant (pictured) is sold across Europe, including the UK
Citing previous research, the report says that reducing livestock farming could free up between 400 and 800 million hectares of land.
This equates to seven to 15 percent of today’s farmland, which could help produce more food to feed the world’s growing population.
Bringing plant products into public institutions is identified as one of three ‘superpowers’ – where a small intervention can have a large beneficial impact on the climate.
Others mandate zero-emission vehicles and “green” ammonia (ammonia made from renewable energy) for fertilizers.
Overall, significantly more work is needed across all sectors this decade to keep the Paris agreement’s target of limiting global warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) within reach, the report says.
Don’t bother with the plant burger! Can lab-grown red meat save the environment?
Lab-grown meat is set to become more mainstream this decade, morphing from a niche concept into a common fridge staple.
Professor Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands unveiled the world’s first lab-grown burger made from beef muscle cells, in 2013.
He’s now pioneering a “gentler, cleaner” way to make beef with his company Mosa Meat, which created the world’s first hamburger without slaughtering an animal.
The company extracts cells from the muscle of an animal, such as a cow for beef, while the animal is under anesthesia.
The cooked mousse beef patty is similar to a traditional beef burger. The company says it tastes “like meat.”
The cells are then placed in a dish containing naturally occurring nutrients and growth factors, and allowed to reproduce just as they would inside the animal, until there is no Trillions of cells from a tiny sample.
These cells later form muscle cells, which naturally fuse to form primitive muscle fibers and edible tissue.
From a single cow sample, the company can produce 800 million strands of muscle tissue, which is enough to produce 80,000 quarter-pounds.
Mosa Meat has also created a cultured fat that it adds to its own tissues to form the final product, which tastes “like meat,” the company says.
Professor Post believes the product will be so popular with animal welfare campaigners and burger lovers alike that it will eventually replace plant-based alternatives, such as soy burgers, that are increasingly common in UK supermarkets.
Along with reducing food waste and changing consumer behavior, new technologies such as those developed in cellular farming are part of the solution, Professor Post told MailOnline.
A good example of a strong trend in consumer behavior is the increase in veganism among younger generations to unprecedented numbers.
“Most likely, this trend will continue and spread towards other age groups and will eventually lead to the disappearance of vegetarian meat alternatives.”
Mosa Meat received $55 million in 2021 to expand cultured meat production.
The funding will help expand the company’s existing pilot production facility in the Dutch city of Maastricht and develop an industrial-sized production line.