Popular Science advises it’s time people swap animal protein for fungi. The article focuses on the environmental benefits of fermented meat alternatives, as they could help cut deforestation.
A recent study published in Nature estimates annual deforestation may be cut in half if 20% of per-capita meat consumption is substituted with microbial protein by 2050. This substitution would offset the expected increase in CO2 emissions in pasture areas around the globe.
“The production of ruminant meat requires large areas for cattle grazing or growing its feed on cropland, which causes deforestation, biodiversity loss, and CO2 emissions,” says Florian Humpenöder, study author and senior scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “Today, almost 80 percent of global agricultural land including cropland and pasture is used for feeding livestock.”
Popular Science points out a difficult truth: though microbial protein uses far less land and much lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to traditional meat, “its energy consumption is almost equal to that of beef production. The entire process of microbial meat production — which includes electricity generation, microbial cultivation, bioreactor stirring and cooling, and the eventual downstream processing of biomass and proteins — requires energy.”
Lutz Grossmann, assistant professor in the Department of Food Science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, says this cultivation process needs to be designed sustainably. Humpenöder suggests electricity generation needs to be decarbonized on a large scale, and renewable energy sources should be considered in alternative meat production. If this doesn’t happen, substituting microbial protein for traditional animal meat will not lead to a decrease in energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.
Read more (Popular Science)