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Gradually replacing 20 percent of global beef and lamb consumption with meat-textured proteins grown in stainless steel tubs could reduce agricultural CO2 emissions and deforestation halved by 2050, researchers said on Wednesday.

Compared to the forecast for current trends in population growth and food demand, replacing half of red meat consumption with so-called microbial proteins will reduce the loss of trees and CO.2 pollution of more than 80 percent, they reported in the journal Nature.

“With a relatively small change in the consumption of ruminant meat, greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation in tropical forests can be greatly reduced,” lead author Florian Humpenoder, a scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), told AFP. .

“This is an important contribution to achieving the climate goals of the Paris Agreement, with additional side benefits for other sustainability goals.

Three iconic UN climate reports from August make it alarmingly clear that the Paris Treaty’s overarching goal – to limit global warming “well below” two degrees – is in grave danger.

The global food system accounts for approximately one third of all carbon pollution, and beef production is the main culprit in the agricultural sector, according to the UN Climate Advisory Panel.

Cattle breeding is a double threat.

It not only destroys CO2-accumulation of tropical forests to make room for grazing and fodder crops for livestock. In addition, belching animals are a major source of methane, 30 times more potent as greenhouse gas than CO2 in a 100-year period.

Microbial-based meat alternatives have been on supermarket shelves for decades.

But as the world struggles for climate solutions, these and other “new foods” are poised to grow into large-scale industry within decades, according to market forecasts.

Shared benefits

Artificial meat obtained by culturing cells based on microbes or fungi undergoes a fermentation process similar to that of wine or beer.

Cells are fed glucose – from sugar cane or beets, for example – to produce protein, which means that little arable land is needed for production.

But far less than for red meat, according to the study.

Assuming that current agricultural methods and meat consumption patterns continue over the next 30 years, the global pasture area will increase by nearly one million square kilometers (390,000 square miles).

However, if 20 percent of this meat is replaced with microbial protein, the area under pasture is reduced even below current levels.

“About 1.2 million square kilometers less agricultural land is needed for the same protein supply,” said senior author Alexander Pop, also of PIK.

The benefits of protein produced by microbes or fungi go beyond climate and environmental influences, according to Hanna Tuomisto, a researcher at the University of Helsinki who was not involved in the study.

“Mycoprotein is an ideal substitute for meat because it is rich in protein and contains all the essential amino acids,” she said in a commentary in Nature.

The use of water in agriculture, together with the emissions of another greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide, will also be reduced.

“The effectiveness of biotech alternatives offers huge future potential for more sustainable food security,” said Tilly Collins, deputy director of the Center for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London.

“Governments and food businesses need to coordinate to develop appropriate standards and thus future public confidence,” she told the London-based Science Media Center. “Our native songs may never be the same again.”

What remains uncertain, however, is whether enough meat lovers will give up their burgers and steaks as an alternative that shares the texture of the meat more than the taste.

According to Humpenoder, only one of the six co-authors of the study actually tried a microbial-based meat substitute.

“He likes it,” he said.

Mushroom-based meat alternatives can help save the Earth’s forests

More information:
Florian Humpenöder, Estimated environmental benefits of replacing beef with microbial protein, nature (2022). DOI: 10.1038 / s41586-022-04629-w.

© 2022 AFP

Quote: Microbial-based artificial beef can save forests, reduce CO2 emissions (2022, May 7), extracted on May 7, 2022 from

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