Environmental impact of meat substitutes
Study for the Dutch Consumers’ Association
For the Dutch Consumers’ Association (De Consumentenbond) we identified and compared the environmental impacts of various meat substitutes. The Association will be using the results of this study to inform consumers about the sustainability of meat substitutes. The different meat substitutes and meat products, such as mince and hamburgers, were analysed and compared using life cycle assessment methodology. The assessments covered the following impact categories: climate change, water use and land use.
Calculating environmental impacts
The environmental impacts of the products were determined by carrying out a life cycle assessment (LCA) in which the environmental impacts were calculated across the whole life cycle of each product. The LCA method also allows us to investigate different types of environmental impact, in this case we included climate change, water use and land use.
This study used a ‘cradle-to-grave’ system boundary, which includes all the important processes in the production chain of the meat products and meat substitutes, from the raw materials to the treatment of the final wastes, such as the packaging.
Four comparative assessments were made of the following types of meat and meat substitutes:
- Vegetarian mince v minced beef and pork
- Vegetarian chicken pieces v chicken pieces
- Vegetarian hamburgers v beef hamburgers
- Vegetarian sausages v pork sausages
Innovative vegetarian products
In addition to these comparisons we determined the environmental impacts of a number of innovative vegetarian products based on ingredients such as seaweed and insects.
The results of the study (CO2 emissions per kg of prepared product) are summarised in the chart on the right.