‘A 20% reduction in beef consumption could halve deforestation’

New research suggests protein alternatives produced by microbes like fungi could help countries reduce livestock emissions

Big Zero Report 2022

Replacing just a fifth of meat from cattle with alternative proteins produced from microbes such as fungi could halve deforestation and land-use linked emissions by mid-century.

Published in Nature journal, the research marks the first time researchers have assessed the potential impact of meat substitutes on the environment. 

Florian Humpenöder, Researcher at PIK and Lead Author of the study, said: “The food system is at the root of a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, with ruminant meat production being the single largest source.

“That is because more and more forests that store a lot of carbon are cleared for cattle grazing or growing its feed and because of further greenhouse-gas emissions from animal agriculture.”

Mr Humpenöder added biotechnology producing “nutritious protein-rich biomass” with a meat-like texture could hold the key to deforestation.

Researchers had previously predicted that if 10% of the global animal market was replaced by plant-based food products, carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to 2.7 billion trees, covering an area of land larger than Germany, could be saved.

If you enjoyed this story you can sign up to our weekly email for Energy Live News – and if you’re interested in hearing more about the journey to net zero by 2050, you can also sign up to the future Net Zero newsletter. 

Latest Podcast