Crop Biotech Update

Plant-based 'Beef' Reduces CO2 Emissions, but Threatens 1.5 Million Jobs in Agriculture

August 10, 2022

A new economic model in research conducted by Cornell University, Johns Hopkins University, and international partners in Lancet Health reveals that while plant-based 'beef' alternatives help reduce carbon dioxide emissions, their growth and popularity are threatening more than 1.5 million jobs in the U.S.

According to the paper published in The Lancet, the U.S. could reduce its agricultural carbon footprint by 2.5% to 13.5% by using meat protein alternatives, mostly through the reduction of the number of cows needed for for beef production by two to 12 million. The researchers compared the disruption to plant-based beef alternatives by comparing the economic consequences of when plant-based beef alternatives replaced 10%, 30%, or 60% of the current U.S. beef demand.

The researchers wrote that in the aggregate, changes in the food system would be small, but would have positive impacts on national gross product. However, these changes would not be felt equally across the food system, the researchers wrote, “especially in the beef value chain which could contract substantially by as much as 45% under the 60%-replacement scenario, and would challenge the livelihoods of the more than 1.5 million people employed in these sectors.”

The adoption of plant-based beef alternatives has other unintended consequences, according to the authors. Resources freed from beef sectors could allow the port and poultry sectors to expand, which could raise animal welfare concerns.

For more details, read the article in the Cornell Chronicle.

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