Plant-based alternatives for alternative outcomes

2023. 6. 4. 20:14
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By reducing the demand for meat and instead raising that for meat alternatives, the world can reduce the amount of land, water and other resources that would have been used to raise livestock.

Kim Jung-hoon

The author is the representative of the Association for Supporting the SDGs for the United Nations and Secretary-General of the National Assembly ESG Public-Private Policy Forum. The world has so far made noticeable progress toward setting the future in the right environmental direction, and we can be proud of the new eco-friendly measures, technologies and lifestyles that were brought into our lives.

But it’s a little too early to celebrate, as the threat of climate change and pollution still lingers. Every day we come across vivid hints of even more frequent and severe natural disasters as well as an inhabitable environment for humanity in the foreseeable future.

The average global sea surface temperature has already risen by around 0.13 degrees Celsius per decade since 1901, as shown by data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Typhoons, floods, and melting icebergs have become all too common, and these obviously pose significant risks to our lives and wildlife.

Curtailing meat production is one of many effective solutions discussed among experts and activists that can have members of the public proactively participate and show commitment. Meat production is responsible for around 14.5 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, and methane from cows and nitrous oxide from manure are major sources of greenhouse gas.

In commemorating this year’s World Environment Day on June 5, the world needs to recognize how important changes can be brought about by a small step of many — changing what people put on the table. It is also a moment to ponder what benefits would be for producers and consumers if the animal-based protein were to be replaced with plant-based alternatives.

By reducing the demand for meat and instead raising that for meat alternatives, the world can reduce the amount of land, water and other resources that would have been used to raise livestock. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, a kilogram (2 lbs) of beef requires 15,400 liters of water for production, as opposed to 1,250 liters for the same amount of tofu.

The fact that the Agricultural Research Officer of the National Institute of Crop Science found that plant-based meat alternatives can generate up to 90 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than traditional meat products adds support to the eco-friendly cause.

Studies have projected that consumer trends will be closely aligned with this cause, expecting the global demand for plant-based alternatives to grow in the years to come steadily. Bloomberg projected the world meat alternative market to grow from $4 billion in 2020 to $74 billion by 2030, while that of plant-based food products expands from $29.4 billion to $162 billion.

Signs of change are already apparent, especially in Europe.

A study projected Europe’s sales of plant-based meat alternatives to exceed $3 billion by 2025, and the European Commission found that more than 75 percent of European citizens believe reducing meat consumption is important for the environment. Over 26 percent of people in Germany have already tried plant-based meat alternatives.

Many corporations like Beyond Meat, Ingredion and Tyson Foods have been in the race to cash in on this lucrative opportunity. While the global meat alternative market has not been so active in recent months due to the ongoing economic downturn, these companies have shown with their products that plant-based alternatives can be as savory and nutritious as animal-based protein.

Local players have also recognized this opportunity, with promising players arming themselves with competitive products and scrambling to expand their outreach. Korea has always been quick to adapt to new trends and leading the market with unique, exemplary line-ups.

Shinsegae Food, with its Better Meat-branded alternative meat products, has been promoting its line-up as a new choice for consumers instead of it being a replacement.

The company has been expanding its reach to collaborate with various firms, institutions and notable brands, the latest of which was incorporating plant-based protein to some of the menu items for the “Vecchia e Nuovo” restaurant in Gangnam.

CJ CheilJedang has been aggressively marketing its vegan brand PlanTable, while Nogshim showcased frozen alternative meat options through Veggie Garden on top of running the vegan fine-dining restaurant “Forest Kitchen.”

These companies have been successfully capturing the eyes and tongues of local consumers, with many evaluating their products to have almost meat-like flavors.

Perhaps the knowhow is with Korea’s quick response to technological advances and tireless endeavors to stay on top of the market. It is good that the players are here to help people recognize that plant-based protein is no longer just “rabbit food.”

It’s not necessary to fully commit to a vegan lifestyle in celebrating this year’s World Environment Day, but it may be a timely chance to enjoy a little preview and perhaps consider chasing after plant-based protein instead of sirloin steak every now and then.

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