Eating 20% less beef may halve deforestation by 2050, claims Study

The study by a team at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany showed that fungi-based meat alternatives may help save Earth's forests.

IANSUpdated: Thursday, May 05, 2022, 04:34 PM IST
article-image
Representational image |

Substituting 20 per cent of beef with microbial protein -- a meat alternative produced in fermentation tanks -- could halve deforestation by 2050, suggests a study.

The study by a team at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany showed that fungi-based meat alternatives may help save Earth's forests.

While beef farming is a top driver of deforestation worldwide, more and more forests that store a lot of carbon are being cleared for cattle grazing or growing its feed. This also increases methane -- a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Thus, eating 20 per cent less meat may also halve the carbon emissions associated with beef, revealed the study published in Nature.

"The food system is at the root of a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, with ruminant meat production being the single largest source," said lead author Florian Humpenoder, researcher at PIK.

Part of the solution could be existing biotechnology: nutritious protein-rich biomass with meat-like texture produced from microbes like fungi through fermentation, what scientists call "microbial protein".

It is made in specific cultures just like beer or bread. The microbes are living on sugar and a steady temperature, and getting out a protein-rich product that can taste like, feel like and be as nutritious as red meat.

Based on the centuries-old method of fermentation, it was developed in the 1980s. The US Food and Drug Administration greenlighted a microbial protein meat alternative (mycoprotein) as safe in 2002.

"The good news is that people do not need to be afraid they can eat only greens in the future. They can continue eating burgers and the like, it's just that those burger patties will be produced in a different way."

The team of researchers from Germany and Sweden included microbial protein in a computer simulation model to detect the environmental effects in the context of the whole food and agriculture system, as opposed to previous studies at the level of single products.

Under a business-as-usual scenario, meat consumption will likely continue to rise in the future, and more and more forests as well as non-forest natural vegetation may be doomed to extinction for pastures and cropland.

The team found that swapping 20 per cent of the world's per-capita beef consumption with mycoprotein by 2050 would reduce methane emissions by 11 per cent and halve the annual deforestation and associated emissions.

At the same time substituting "50 per cent of the beef consumed per person for mycoprotein would result in a more than 80 per cent reduction in deforestation and carbon emissions, and replacing 80 per cent of beef with mycoprotein would eliminate about 90 per cent of forest loss," the researchers said in the paper.

"So replacing minced red meat with microbial protein would be a great start to reduce the detrimental impacts of present-day beef production," Humpenoder added.

(If you have a story in and around Mumbai, you have our ears, be a citizen journalist and send us your story here. )

(To receive our E-paper on WhatsApp daily, please click here.  To receive it on Telegram, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

RECENT STORIES

Odisha: 2 labourers dead, several injured in gas pipeline explosion in Nayagarh

Odisha: 2 labourers dead, several injured in gas pipeline explosion in Nayagarh

Funds for women and child welfare remain unused by Bengal government, says Smriti Irani

Funds for women and child welfare remain unused by Bengal government, says Smriti Irani

Punjab Congress chief urges CM Bhagwant Mann for Navjot Singh Sidhu’s early release

Punjab Congress chief urges CM Bhagwant Mann for Navjot Singh Sidhu’s early release

UP, Bihar NIA arrest 3 for anti-Ayodhya posts after audio-video appeal for revenge goes viral

UP, Bihar NIA arrest 3 for anti-Ayodhya posts after audio-video appeal for revenge goes viral

Uttar Pradesh: BJP to reach people at district level to list benefits of Union Budget

Uttar Pradesh: BJP to reach people at district level to list benefits of Union Budget