Animal protein such as meat and dairy products account for a significant proportion of total greenhouse gas emissions. One reason for this is that we consume much more protein, in the form of feed, than we get from the animal. Researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SLU, estimate that only five percent of the protein that a cow has eaten during its lifetime remains as meat at slaughter.
A much more environmentally friendly source of protein is mushroom protein, mycoprotein, which is found in a number of different food products today. One problem is that many people like meat and don't want to stop eating it.
But now researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SLU, and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, PIK, have calculated how much meat we have to replace with mushroom protein in order for it to have a noticeable effect. It turns out that we can continue to eat quite a lot of beef and still have a clear positive impact.
"We found that if we per capita replace 20 percent of the beef by 2050, the annual deforestation and carbon dioxide emissions will be halved compared to if we continue as today", says Florian Humpenöder, researcher at PIK, in a press release.
If we completely stopped eating beef, of course, the environmental impact would decrease even more, but it is doubtful whether this is a realistic goal.
"It turned out that you do not have to stop eating beef altogether to be able to achieve noticeable effects already in 2050. This is good news, because a radical change in our eating habits can be difficult to achieve within the same time period", says SLU researcher Tomas Linder, who is the research group's expert on the nutritional needs of microorganisms.