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Meat is becoming the new coal

The graph shows the kilograms of CO2 emitted by food for every 100 grams of protein. On order: beef; lambs: crustacean farms; cheese; Pork Meat; farmed fish; birds; eggs and peas. Chart: Bloomberg.

(Bloomberg) – Eleven Madison Park, one of the best restaurants in Manhattan, is ditching meat. The Epicurious cooking site stopped posting new recipes with meat. The Culinary Institute of America is promoting “plant-based” menus. Dozens of universities, including Harvard and Stanford, are making the turn to “eco-friendly” food.

If this continues, and the Boston Consulting Group and Kearney believe the trend is global and growing, meat could be the new coal, shunned because of rising temperatures and replaced by increasingly cheaper alternatives.

“Meat is under a lot of pressure,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Climate Change Communications Program at Yale University. “It was the change in market forces that was the death of coal. And it’s the same here. It is going to be the change in consumer tastes and preferences, not a certain regulation ”.

The audience is speaking loud and clear

Americans say they want change. 70% say it would be healthier if the country ate less meat and 58% would like to eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains, according to a 2020 survey by food market research firm Datassential. Concerns about the climate are mounting on top of long-standing health concerns related to red meat.

However, while long-term trends support the turnaround, U.S. beef consumption increased slightly during the 2020 pandemic, to 55.8 pounds per person. It has risen slowly since 2015 after falling during the Great Recession of 2007-2009. Consumption last year was 11.4% below 2006 and nearly 40% below 1970 highs, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

Trendsetters are pushing. Popular culinary personalities like chef Jamie Oliver are promoting plant-centered meals. Bill Gates is urging developed countries to give up conventional meat entirely. Many school and corporate cafeterias have replaced beef-only patties with “mixed burgers,” one-third of which are mushroom-based.

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Popular American chef Jamie Oliver is promoting plant-centered meals.  Photo: Bloomberg. Popular American chef Jamie Oliver is promoting plant-centered meals.  Photo: Bloomberg.

Popular American chef Jamie Oliver is promoting plant-centered meals. Photo: Bloomberg.

And once again … politics

Meanwhile, there is a strong reaction among rural Republican politicians who detect a new battleground in the wars of partisan culture. In wide swaths of the country, livestock and corn grown for animal feed are critical to livelihoods and identity. More than a third of American farms and ranches are beef cattle operations, making it the largest segment of American agriculture.

The Biden Administration has not waged a “war on meat,” but there is no escaping the fact that meat is a climate villain. Cows’ digestive systems ferment grass and other foods in multiple stomach compartments, spewing methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. The relatively long lifespan of livestock compared to other sources of meat increases their climate impact.

The figures are clear against meat

Globally, 14.5% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock production, and livestock are responsible for two-thirds, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Per gram of protein, beef production has more than six times the climate impact of pork, more than eight times that of poultry and 113 times that of peas, according to a 2018 analysis by the world production in the journal Science. US livestock producers generally have lower emissions than world averages due to production efficiency.

Impossible Foods meat imitation product in a supermarket.  Photo: Bloomberg. Impossible Foods meat imitation product in a supermarket.  Photo: Bloomberg.

Imitation meat product from Impossible Foods in a supermarket. Photo: Bloomberg.

Livestock producers have tried to mitigate the lure of competing with copycat meat products with state laws that prohibit them from using common meat terms and address environmental criticism by promoting the role of ranchers as stewards of the land.

An emerging global middle class in China and elsewhere is bolstering global demand for meat and grains used for livestock, enhancing export opportunities for American farmers and ranchers. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the Biden Administration’s climate initiatives will not focus on meat consumption.

Money becomes vegetarian

Investors are rushing toward plant-based and cultured fake meat startups. A Boston Consulting Group report in March announced the beginning of a “protein transformation” and predicted that meat alternatives would account for between 11% and 22% of the global protein market by 2035. A study by Kearney projects that global sales of meat will begin to fall by 2025 and will decrease 33% by 2040, since the alternatives will take away market share.

Plant-based alternatives have already hit the mass market, with Burger King’s Impossible Whopper. Dunkin ‘Donuts and Starbucks serve plant-based sausage patties. Even Tyson Foods Inc, the largest US meat processor, joined the trend this month with its own line of 100% vegan meat products.

Cultured meat is also making headway. In December, Singapore became the first country to approve the commercial sale of such animal cells.

A consortium of 41 universities, including Harvard, Stanford and Kansas State University, came together in a collaboration to give students access to healthier and more climate-friendly foods.

Sophie Egan, co-director of the university collaboration, said the initiative is consciously targeting young people to shape food preferences at a time in life when most are more adventurous and still forming identities and tastes for a lifetime.

VIDEO | Reveal the strange aspect of meat in Subway sandwiches

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Original Note: Is Beef the New Coal? Climate-Friendly Eating Is on the Rise

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