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Economic Sustainability of Meat Alternatives

Sustainable trends have occupied a significant place in various spheres of people’s lives, including the environment and health care. With the use of environmentally friendly approaches to producing and utilizing various products and goods, humanity gains an opportunity to improve its ecology and economy. Recently, the question of healthier meat consumption has been gaining much attention. Apart from the ecological sustainability of exploiting meat alternatives, there are also crucial economic benefits.

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The most common economic-related areas to analyze when it comes to the discussion of meat alternatives’ advantages include the minimization of costs on water and land exploitation (resource exhaustion) and healthcare cost reduction. At the same time, many companies are opposed to the use of meat alternatives due to their personal economic losses triggered by meat chain changes. Van der Weele, Feindt, van der Goot, van Mierlo, and van Boekel (2019) report that this aspect may serve as an obstacle to the vast use of meat alternatives. However, many studies’ findings indicate that the movement toward sustainability in this respect is the most promising option.

One of the most detrimental factors influencing food sustainability is food loss. Shepon, Eshel, Noor, & Milo (2018) remark that consuming “resource-intensive” food items instead of those that are equally nutritious may also be referred to as “an effective food loss” (p. 3804). Having researched the opportunities presented by meat alternatives to economic sustainability, scholars have found vast potential benefits. For instance, Shepon et al. (2018) note that there are many plant-based alternatives the nutritional value of which is comparable to meat in terms of “protein content” (p. 3804). Hence, it will be economically profitable to switch to plant-based products since such a change will minimize the use of cropland for animal-based food categories.

The “characteristic conventional retail-to-consumer” food losses constitute about 30% for animal and plant products (Shepon et al., 2018). Meanwhile, the opportunity food losses are 40% for eggs, 50% for poultry, 75% for dairy products, 90% for pork, and 96% for beef. The opportunity food losses can be explained by the fact that plant-based replacement diets can produce from twofold to twentyfold more nutritionally similar food per the same area of cropland (Shepon et al., 2018). The notable findings by Shepon et al. (2018) indicate that if all animal-based products in the USA were replaced by alternatives, there would be enough food to feed 350 million additional people. Hence, the implications of alternative foods are too promising to neglect them.

Apart from a plant-based diet, researchers also suggest using insects for food as a potential way of enhancing economic sustainability. Smetana, Palanisamy, Mathys, and Heinz (2016) emphasize the economic benefits of insect-based food production. The authors note that despite some barriers to the mass implementation of such production, the economic sustainability of this approach is rather high. Aleksandrowicz, Green, Joy, Smith, and Haines, A. (2016) remark that changes in dietary patterns are likely to bring about considerable advantages for health and the environment. At the same time, scholars acknowledge the potential of meat alternatives to improve the system of economics due to the reduction in emissions, as well as land and water use. Aleksandrowicz et al. (2016) have found that a change in dietary patterns can lead to a 70-80% decrease in land use and greenhouse gas emissions and a 50% reduction in water consumption. Such numbers signify the significance of choosing alternative foods over meat due to their potential to enhance economic sustainability.


Aleksandrowicz, L., Green, R., Joy, E. J. M., Smith, P., & Haines, A. (2016). The impacts of dietary change on greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, and health: A systematic review. PLOS ONE, 11(11), e0165797. Web.

Shepon, A., Eshel, G., Noor, E., & Milo, R. (2018). The opportunity cost of animal based diets exceeds all food losses. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(15), 3804–3809. Web.

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Smetana, S., Palanisamy, M., Mathys, A., & Heinz, V. (2016). Sustainability of insect use for feed and food: Life cycle assessment perspective. Journal of Cleaner Production, 137, 741–751. Web.

Van der Weele, C., Feindt, P., van der Goot, A. J., van Mierlo, B., & van Boekel, M. (2019). Meat alternatives: An integrative comparison. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 88, 505–512. Web.

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