U-M life cycle assessment shows sustainability benefits of plant-based meat over conventional beef

Originally published: 
October, 2018

Dr. Martin Heller, research specialist at the Center for Sustainable Systems in U-M’s School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS), conducted a peer-reviewed life cycle assessment to quantify the environmental impact of the production of the Beyond Burger through it’s distribution to retailers. The study shows that production of the Beyond Burger has a significantly lighter environmental footprint—from a sustainability perspective—than production of traditional beef hamburgers. Compared to a ¼ lb. of U.S. beef, producing a ¼ lb. Beyond Burger requires:

  • 99% less impact on water scarcity

  • 93% less impact on land use

  • 90% fewer greenhouse gas emissions

  • Nearly 50% less energy


“We conducted a rigorous analysis of the Beyond Burger’s environmental footprint, from producing raw ingredients through delivery to retailers,” said Heller. “Our report then underwent an independent peer review process that validated our approach and the results, showing the overwhelming benefits that the Beyond Burger offers over beef. We know that, in general, plant-based foods have lower impacts than beef, but very few studies have looked directly at commercially available products. This study confirms that products made to look and taste like beef can have significantly lower impacts, as well.”

Heller has conducted numerous life cycle assessments related to agriculture, food production, and the environmental impacts of diet and nutrition. “Reducing the impact of our diets… could achieve significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. It’s climate action that is accessible to everyone, because we all decide on a daily basis what we eat,” he said.

Research brief:http://css.umich.edu/project/comprehensive-comparison-plant-based-and-animal-based-protien-sources-beyond-meats-beyond

Forbes article:https://www.forbes.com/sites/katrinafox/2018/09/26/this-vegan-brand-just-proved-that-plant-based-burgers-are-more-sustainable-than-those-made-of-beef/#24620050475a

Business Wire article: