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  • Writer's pictureRayki Goh, MSc

Plant-Based vs. Animal-Based - What's the Real Deal?

Our most recent investigation illuminates the lesser-known environmental costs of plant-based protein production and contrasts them with the nutritional benefits of animal proteins. Amid a boom in marketing for plant-based diets, we look at the intricacies of its manufacturing methods, carbon emissions, and nutritional value. How do these elements influence our decisions and the planet's future?

Eating meat or plant-based burger

Dear Food People, 

 

In today's world, where the psychology of marketing is paired with the alluring effects of advertising on consumption, it is critical that we know the facts and arguments on both sides of the narrative to make the wisest choice especially when it comes to food decisions.

 

In this week’s article, we explore more of what’s not commonly discussed about plant-based protein production and its environmental impact. Before you make your choice based on what the advertisers say, let's talk about the pros and cons of what we know.

 

First up, let's talk about the good stuff. Plant-based proteins are getting a lot of buzz lately, and for good reason. They're kinder to the environment, emitting fewer greenhouse gases and air pollutants compared to traditional livestock farming. Plus, they're more land- and resource-efficient because they can expand upward rather than strictly sideways across acres of land. Plant-based protein production can help prevent deforestation and habitat loss, which is an obvious benefit.

 

But like any good debate, there are always two sides to the story. This is the part where I attempt to flip the script, where I potentially get a lot of hate from plant-based protein enthusiasts and environmental activists. 

 

Alright, let's break it down. Plant-based protein awareness is all the rage these days, with billions of marketing dollar tirelessly poured into campaigns after campaigns to convince animal-based consumers to switch sides and, for good reason, educate the public of its many benefits to the planet and its atmosphere.

 

So, here's the deal. When we're talking about turning those plant-based goodies into the products we find on our grocery store shelves, fossil fuels are utilised in the process of transforming plant-based foods into consumer goods, beginning with the employment of robotics to mix and form the ingredients into the desired shapes, sizes, and textures, after which energy and water are required for protein extraction. So, that means carbon emissions float up into the atmosphere?

 

And then there's the whole nutrition thing. While plant proteins are great at customising textures for the perfect mouthfeel, they might not give us everything we need in one neat little package like animal protein does. So, we've gotta be a bit more mindful about getting all the essential nutrients that our body craves.

 

Conversely, animal proteins are comprehensive sources of nutrients in a single, convenient packaging, making them nutritional powerhouses. A multitude of essential vitamins and minerals, including complete proteins, iron, and B vitamins, are required for optimal bodily functioning. It is as if your health were being presented with a nutritional juggernaut on a silver platter.

 

Sure, plant proteins have their perks—fibre, antioxidants, all that good stuff—but they lack the nutrient density that’s naturally weaved within meat fibres. And let's be real: who doesn't love sinking their teeth into a juicy steak or savouring a perfectly grilled piece of chicken?

 

But hey, we get it—the plant-based trend is all the rage these days, and while the animal protein industry, which has fuelled humanity for centuries, rests on the strong foothold of consumption history, the plant-based protein industry is still giving all it has to sink its teeth into the pie. We can think of it as balancing both types of protein rather than a complete replacement, like how it has been heavily marketed. 

 

While there's nothing wrong with adding more plants to your plate, perhaps incorporating a humble slab of meat into moderation wouldn’t worsen our current climate conditions too much?

 

So, next time you're pondering your protein options, don't count out animal protein just yet. Whether it's lean chicken breast, omega-3-rich salmon, or a hearty serving of B-vitamin-rich beef steak, animal-based proteins have got your back when it comes to meeting your nutritional needs and satisfying your taste buds.

 

Now, I know what you're thinking—it's a lot to digest! And hey, if you have any insights or suggestions regarding how we can address environmental or food sustainability concerns, or if there's a specific topic you'd like us to explore in our next issue, drop us a message at dearfoodpeople.com. After all, it's all about keeping the conversation going and building a more sustainable future together.


 

Further Reading:

  1. GFI. (n.d.). Environmental impacts of alternative proteins. Available at: https://gfi.org/resource/environmental-impacts-of-alternative-proteins/

  2. Lynch, H. M., Johnston, C. S., & Wharton, C. M. (2018). Plant-Based Diets: Considerations for Environmental Impact, Protein Quality, and Exercise Performance. Nutrients, 10(12), 1841. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10121841

  3. Degi, C. L. (2021, October 29). Plant-Based Lifestyle: Environmental Benefits and Impacts. Verywell Fit. Available at: https://www.verywellfit.com/plant-based-lifestyle-environmental-benefits-6891044

  4. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (n.d.). Healthy plant-based diets better for the environment than less healthy plant-based diets. Available at: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/healthy-plant-based-diets-better-for-the-environment-than-less-healthy-plant-based-diets/

  5. UCLA Sustainability. (n.d.). The Case for Plant Based. Available at: https://www.sustain.ucla.edu/food-systems/the-case-for-plant-based/


 

The information provided in our articles is for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The content on our website, including articles, is not meant to endorse or promote any specific medical treatments, products, or procedures. The information provided is based on general knowledge and research at the time of writing. Medical practices and knowledge are constantly evolving, and what may have been accurate at the time of publication may not be current or applicable today.



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