Mankind benefits from eating less meat

Apr 06, 2006

If people were to eat more vegetable proteins instead of animal proteins, this would result in multiple – and much-needed – benefits. Such a 'protein transition' will positively affect sustainable energy production, sustainable water use, biodiversity, human health and animal welfare.

Collective vegetarianism is not required, but good-tasting, high quality meat substitutes ought to be used more often in place of meat. This is the most important finding of a comprehensive study of more sustainable protein production by nineteen economists, consumer researchers, food technologists, sociologists, political scientists, ecologists and chemists from three universities. The research findings are published in the book Sustainable Protein Production and Consumption: Pigs or Peas?

On Wednesday, April 12, the first copy of this book will be presented to Minister Veerman of the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature & Food Quality. The target audience however is much wider, including all ‘stakeholders in the food chain, from policy makers to consumers.’

The study is called PROFETAS (Protein Foods, Environment, Technology And Society) and was financed by the Dutch National Science Foundation NWO and the Technology Foundation STW, the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality and private companies. The researchers are from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Wageningen University & Research Centre and the University of Twente.

Facts about meat

- to produce 1 kg of animal protein, 3 to 10 kg of plant protein is required, depending on the particular animal species and circumstances;
- 1 kg of beef requires 15 m3 water, one kg of lamb requires 10 m3 , while for one kg of grain 0.4 to 3 m3 is sufficient;
- 75 percent of available fresh water, 35 percent of available land and 20 percent of all energy resources are currently used for food production;
- between 1950 and 2000, the world's population doubled from 2.7 to 6.7 billion people while meat production increased fivefold from 45 to 233 billion kg per year. The FAO predicts a global population of 9 billion people in 2050, and meat production of 450 billion kg per year.

Novel Protein Foods

The PROFETAS-researchers are arguing for a 'protein transition': we must eat less meat and partly replace our protein requirements with so-called Novel Protein Foods (NPFs). These NPFs are based on plant proteins that are derived from, for example, peas or soya. While we don't all have to adopt a vegetarian diet, a change in production is necessary, and above all, a change in mentality. It is true that in Western countries meat substitutes are increasingly popular, but the consumption of meat remains persistently high. Even in industrializing countries such as China and Brazil, where meat consumption used to be low, meat consumption is rising rapidly. To achieve real change - a transition - this trend must be reversed on a global scale.

Even more advantages

A protein transition has many additional advantages. A conservative estimation by the researchers found that because so much land would become available to cultivate biomass, a quarter of the world's current energy consumption could be sustainably met from this energy source. Moreover, this can be achieved without affecting grasslands (with extensive meat production) and nature areas, such as tropical rainforests.
A protein transition can also help to put a meat industry plagued by animal diseases and crises back on the rails. Approximately one third of the global trade in cattle and meat is currently afflicted by outbreaks of diseases, causing billions of euros damage.
Finally, a protein transition will also have a positive influence on people's health, through the reduction of many meat-related and obesity-related diseases.

Source: Vrije Universiteit (Holland)

Explore further: Cougars' diverse diet helped them survive the Pleistocene mass extinction

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Legal harvest of marine turtles tops 42,000 each year

Feb 20, 2014

A new study has found that 42 countries or territories around the world permit the harvest of marine turtles – and estimates that more than 42,000 turtles are caught each year by these fisheries.

Making Europe less dependent on protein import

Jan 30, 2014

The European Union aims to make the animal feed industry in Europe less dependent on plant protein imports from North and South America. Wageningen UR is studying the opportunities for new protein sources ...

Recommended for you

Not just the poor live hand-to-mouth

4 hours ago

When the economy hits the skids, government stimulus checks to the poor sometimes follow. Stimulus programs—such as those in 2001, 2008 and 2009—are designed to boost the economy quickly by getting cash ...

Math modeling handbook now available

7 hours ago

Math comes in handy for answering questions about a variety of topics, from calculating the cost-effectiveness of fuel sources and determining the best regions to build high-speed rail to predicting the spread ...

Archaeologists, tribe clash over Native remains

8 hours ago

Archaeologists and Native Americans are clashing over Indian remains and artifacts that were excavated during a construction project in the San Francisco Bay Area, but then reburied at an undisclosed location.

Male-biased tweeting

10 hours ago

Today women take an active part in public life. Without a doubt, they also converse with other women. In fact, they even talk to each other about other things besides men. As banal as it sounds, this is far ...

Developing nations ride a motorcycle boom

11 hours ago

Asia's rapidly developing economies should prepare for a full-throttle increase in motorcycle numbers as average incomes increase, a new study from The Australian National University has found.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Not just the poor live hand-to-mouth

When the economy hits the skids, government stimulus checks to the poor sometimes follow. Stimulus programs—such as those in 2001, 2008 and 2009—are designed to boost the economy quickly by getting cash ...

Male-biased tweeting

Today women take an active part in public life. Without a doubt, they also converse with other women. In fact, they even talk to each other about other things besides men. As banal as it sounds, this is far ...

Archaeologists, tribe clash over Native remains

Archaeologists and Native Americans are clashing over Indian remains and artifacts that were excavated during a construction project in the San Francisco Bay Area, but then reburied at an undisclosed location.

Math modeling handbook now available

Math comes in handy for answering questions about a variety of topics, from calculating the cost-effectiveness of fuel sources and determining the best regions to build high-speed rail to predicting the spread ...