Do you want to save the planet?  Eat protein from mushrooms and seaweed instead of red meat |  Adrian Matei

Do you want to save the planet? Eat protein from mushrooms and seaweed instead of red meat | Adrian Matei

RIf we replace just one-fifth of the red meat we eat with microbial protein from fungi or algae, annual deforestation could be reduced by a whopping 56% by 2050, according to a study published this spring.

Climate scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research simulated four future scenarios in which people replace either 0%, 20%, 50% or 80% of the red meat in our diet with microbial protein, which is a low-calorie, high-protein and high-fiber fermented product, which is already an ingredient in some commercial alternative meats, including Quorn and Nature’s Fynd. The researchers then looked at how this dietary shift could affect global forests by 2050.

Currently, the planet is losing about 10 million hectares of forest annually, of which an estimated 95% is tropical forest and 75% is driven by agricultural expansion, namely ranching and soy plantations for animal feed. Deforestation contributes to climatic imbalances, desertification and water scarcity, greenhouse gas emissions, flooding and erosion, and the destruction of biodiversity, including important plant pollinators.

However, the study found that replacing just 20% of our meat with microbial protein could more than halve the rate of deforestation and reduce CO2 emissions associated with cattle farming by 2050. Microbial foods dramatically outperform “staple crops in terms of calorie and protein yield per land area,” write the authors of a separate 2021 study on the efficiency of the food source. In contrast, livestock take up nearly 80% of the world’s farmland while producing less than 20% of the world’s calories, a grossly inefficient system. Science suggests that these fungal-bordering proteins could play a significant role in addressing the interconnected challenges of climate change and food security as the population grows to an estimated 9.7 billion people by 2050.

Fortunately, meat substitutes – including those made from laboratory-grown animal cells, plants and microbial proteins – are already enjoying widespread popularity with the general public. According to IPES-Food, the market for meat substitutes will increase dramatically from sales of USD 4.2 billion in 2020 to USD 28 billion in 2025. And many new companies, including Colorado-based Meati and California’s Prime Roots, are betting that great-tasting mushroom-based alternative meats are the future.

If “microbial proteins” don’t sound appetizing to you, the good news is that any reduction in red meat in our diet is a net positive, regardless of which vegetarian option we replace it with. Already, more and more of us are changing our diet; According to market research, the proportion of people practicing flexitarianism rose from 28% in 2017 to 39% in 2019. In fact, years ago, scientists found that greenhouse gas emissions could fall by 29% by 2050 if we all followed only our basic dietary recommendations comply with, which for us in the industrialized countries primarily means eating more plants and less meat.

While limiting red meat sounds simple enough, convincing millions to change their diet can be a little tricky. A recent Ipsos survey found that despite 68% of adults in 31 countries feeling “concerned” about climate change, only 44% said they would likely reduce their meat consumption by replacing meat with alternative protein sources.

This reluctance indicates both the power of the convention and the widespread belief that it is the responsibility of companies and governments to address the climate crisis. The latter is certainly true – after all, companies and governments must do more to support a climate-proof future, and world leaders at COP26 pledged to end deforestation by 2030.

But a similar promise made at the 2014 summit fell through; and with 65% of Americans reporting feeling the federal government is doing too little to reduce the impact of climate change, making simple, green lifestyle changes to help mitigate climate change can be both effective and empowering for individuals Contribute to climate change while continuing to demand large-scale leadership actions.

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