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  2. Mar 24, 2021

Plant-Based ‘Meatballs’ Have 85% Smaller Impact on Global Warming Than Beef Meatballs

vegan meatball sub
Photo: Getty Images

A new study that compared plant-based “meatballs” made from pea protein to beef meatballs found that plant-based meatballs had an 85% smaller impact on global warming. The study also found that the plant-based meatballs had a higher nutritional density.

The acidification (the overload of carbon dioxide in bodies of water) and land use burdens of plant-based meatballs were 81% and 89% smaller, respectively, than beef meatballs, according to the study.

“In terms of improving nutrition and the environmental sustainability of our diets, increasing the consumption of plant-protein alternatives to red meat represents a win-win scenario,” says professor Mike Williams, from Trinity College Dublin's School of Natural Sciences, who was the lead scientist on the study. “Plant protein-based foods provide more fiber and a higher nutritional density, and—through virtue of their ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen from the atmosphere—impart a significantly lower environmental impact than animal protein products.”

The study notes that “substituting meat protein with plant protein in the human diet, in particular legumes [such as peas], has the potential to significantly improve the sustainability of food systems.”

Register for the Physicians Committee’s free Plant-Based Climate Summit on April 1 to hear world-renowned experts discuss how plant-based foods help fight climate change and improve the environment.

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