A world of meat substitutes
The what and the why?
19% of all carbon emissions may be coming from us figuring out how to feed our planet. The production and usage of fertilizers, deforestation, burning crops, and ofcourse cows passing gas (enteric fermentation) all lead us to that 19%.
The immediate response may be, 'Aren’t there bigger fish to fry before we tackle cows burping and farting?' Well, yes. Figuring out and implementing clean electricity will help reduce emissions from manufacturing, transportation, and much more. So why back to cows?
Well, to me it’s just one stat.
Of the total agricultural land on earth, nearly 77% is used for livestock. Despite using 77% of the land, livestock produces only 18% of the world’s supply of calories and 33% of the global protein supply. (Our World in Data)
A mismatch in land usage and calories isn’t ideal. Oh, and Enteric fermentation seems to be the biggest contributor to emissions, when we look at agriculture, forest, and land use.
So what do we do?
The answer isn't as simple as just stopping consuming meat altogether. While many are advocating for a plant-based diet, it may not be achievable on a global scale. Livestock production, fishing, aquaculture, etc provide jobs and economic opportunities in many third-world countries, and there is a cultural and dietary preference for meat in almost every society.
So, unless we're willing to convert all the world's cattle ranches into avocado farms and convince everyone to switch to a vegan diet overnight, we need to come up with alternative solutions. I mean, have you ever tried suggesting to a non-vegetarian to order Paneer Tikka instead of Chicken Tikka? It's like taking candy from a baby, but way more dangerous. (By the way, even Paneer is a problem).
That brings us to the alternate meat industry.
1. Plant-Based Meats
Companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are mastering the art of creating plant-based burgers, sausages, and more that look, taste, and cook like real meat.
They use a combination of plant-based ingredients, such as soy, pea protein, and wheat protein, along with natural flavors and colors, to create products that mimic the taste, texture, and appearance of real meat.
A plant-based burger generates significantly fewer greenhouse gas emissions, uses less land and water, and reduces the overall strain on the environment. According to Beyond Meat, one of its alternative meat burgers produces 90% lower greenhouse gas emissions than the traditional beef equivalent.
2. Cultured Meat
Picture a world where meat is produced not by raising and slaughtering animals but by growing muscle cells in a lab. Sounds crazy right? Well, it’s real.
So how is it done? The process starts with taking a small sample of muscle cells from an animal, such as a cow or a chicken. These cells are then placed in a nutrient-rich solution that helps them grow and multiply. Over time, the cells form muscle tissue that can be harvested and turned into meat products like burgers, nuggets, and sausages.
The potential benefits of cultured meat are numerous. For one, it could significantly reduce the environmental impact of meat production. Cultured meat requires much less land, water, and energy than traditional animal farming, and produces far fewer greenhouse gas emissions. It also eliminates the need for antibiotics and other chemicals used in animal agriculture.
On the other hand, there are some challenges. One major concern is the cost of producing cultured meat, which is currently much higher than conventional meat. Scaling up production to make it more affordable will require significant investment and innovation. Additionally, some people may be wary of eating meat grown in a lab, and there are regulatory and safety concerns that need to be addressed.
As I said though, it’s highly unlikely that we can convince the world to change their diet due to climate change. Hell, it’s tough to convince the world that climate change is real.
Here is hoping we can figure out affordable carbon capture.