Replacing 10 percent of animal agriculture with plant-based alternatives could save an area of land bigger than Germany and the equivalent of 2.7 billion trees in CO2 emissions, according to a new environmental impact report.
Investment firm Blue Horizon and PWC commissioned the study. It compares the environmental footprints of beef mince, pork mince, shredded chicken, and eggs to their plant-based counterparts.
It then looks ahead to the positive environmental impact a shift toward a plant-based food system could have.
Meat consumption is higher than ever before; experts predict it will increase by 13 percent by 2028.
Replacing 10 percent of the global animal market with vegan alternatives could save nearly 38 million hectares of land. It could prevent 176 million CO2 emissions and save 8.6 billion cubic meters of water. That’s the equivalent to an amount of land bigger than Germany and 2.7 billion trees in CO2 emissions. It’s also enough water for the entire state of New York for half a decade.
The Environmental Impact of Animal Agriculture
Animal agriculture is a resource-intensive business. Twenty-six percent of global arable land is dedicated to livestock grazing and 33 percent of croplands are used to grow their food. It uses exorbitant amounts of water, too: 92 percent of the world’s fresh water supply is used for agriculture and nearly one-third is tied to animal products.
The study analyzed four specific products—beef, pork, chicken, and eggs—due to their popularity. Cattle, pigs, and chickens make up 92 percent of global meat production. The egg industry produces roughly 82 million tonnes of eggs each year. The plant-based version of each product has a consistently lower environmental impact with regards to greenhouse gas emissions, water use, and land use.
Plant-based chicken is a 5.5 times lower impact than shredded chicken. Vegan eggs have a 3.2 times lower impact and vegan pork has a 3.4 times lower impact. The largest contrast can be seen in beef mince: the vegan version’s environmental impact is 15 times lower.
Cattle have a considerably higher environmental impact compared to other livestock. This is because they emit methane, a greenhouse gas about 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
“This study provides detailed and robust information about the true price of consumption of animal proteins and their vegetable alternatives,” Björn Witte, CEO of Blue Horizon, said in a statement.
Witte adds that the study helps investors better assess market opportunities in the changing food industry, where consumers are increasingly seeking sustainable versions of animal-based products.
“This work is an important step in helping people to understand how the decisions we make about our protein consumption impact our environment,” said Witte.