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Projected environmental benefits of replacing beef with microbial protein

Authors
/persons/resource/Florian.Humpenoeder

Humpenöder,  Florian
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

/persons/resource/Bodirsky

Bodirsky,  Benjamin Leon
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

/persons/resource/Isabelle.Weindl

Weindl,  Isabelle
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

/persons/resource/Lotze-Campen

Lotze-Campen,  Hermann
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

Linder,  Tomas
External Organizations;

/persons/resource/Alexander.Popp

Popp,  Alexander
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

External Ressource

https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5895089
(Supplementary material)

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Citation

Humpenöder, F., Bodirsky, B. L., Weindl, I., Lotze-Campen, H., Linder, T., Popp, A. (2022): Projected environmental benefits of replacing beef with microbial protein. - Nature, 605, 7908, 90-96.
https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-022-04629-w


Cite as: https://publications.pik-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_27105
Abstract
Ruminant meat provides valuable protein to humans, but livestock production has many negative environmental impacts, especially in terms of deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, water use and eutrophication1. In addition to a dietary shift towards plant-based diets2, imitation products, including plant-based meat, cultured meat and fermentation-derived microbial protein (MP), have been proposed as means to reduce the externalities of livestock production3–7. Life cycle assessment (LCA) studies have estimated substantial environmental benefits of MP, produced in bioreactors using sugar as feedstock, especially compared to ruminant meat3,7. Here we present an analysis of MP as substitute for ruminant meat in forward-looking global land-use scenarios towards 2050. Our study complements LCA studies by estimating the environmental benefits of MP within a future socio-economic pathway. Our model projections show that substituting 20% of per-capita ruminant meat consumption with MP globally by 2050 (on a protein basis) offsets future increases in global pasture area, cutting annual deforestation and related CO2 emissions roughly in half, while also lowering methane emissions. However, further upscaling of MP, under the assumption of given consumer acceptance, results in a non-linear saturation effect on reduced deforestation and related CO2 emissions—an effect that cannot be captured with the method of static LCA.