Transforming Protein, Land Use Implications of Plant-Based Alternative Meat Adoption
Animal-based protein is broadly known to have negative environmental impacts resulting from inefficient transformation of plant inputs to edible meat, ecologically damaging land use to grow plant inputs and facilitate animal husbandry, and the greenhouse gas emissions from the animals themselves. Our project examines the land use change implications of market segment expansion of the plant-based alternative meat industry as U.S. consumers shift consumption from animal-based to plant-based alternative meat. To do so, we modeled systemic land use change using Stella software, incorporating prior life cycle analyses for agricultural inputs and potential consumer demand scenarios into an interconnected systems model. Our results have shown that increased consumer demand leads to a reduction in net land use, in large part due to a reduction in animal grazing space. However, we find that plant-based alternative meat can be expected to increase land use in emerging markets, whose land is not similarly utilized for animal-based meat production, in order to support increased demand for oils such as coconut oil. Given these results, we’ve developed a case study to help Impossible Foods address expected sustainability challenges in key coconut oil-producing markets. These findings provide Impossible Foods with direction on areas of focus for their sustainability strategy as this fast-growing company supplies an increasing volume of plant-based alternative meat to consumers.
Greg Phillips, MS (SS), MBA; Elizabeth Rees, MS (SS); Joe Garcia, MS (SS), MBA; Leah Gustafson, MS (SS), MBA; Ricky Wozniak, MS (SS), MBA