Rise of meat substitutes renders carnivorism obsolete


Restaurants across the country are rapidly expanding their menus to include plant-based substitutes for meat products in order to meet growing customer demand. This upsurge in popularity is due to increasing concerns about the effects of meat consumption on animal welfare and the environment. As many plant-based meat substitutes taste nearly identical to animal meat, the choice to consume less animal meat is simpler than ever. Students should turn to eating meat substitutes rather than meat itself, as these substitutes comprise a more ethical diet contributing to the welfare of the planet and the animals inhabiting it.

Meat production has a significant impact on the environment: According to a study conducted by the University of California, Davis, livestock are responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. By replacing beef burgers with plant-based burgers, greenhouse gas emissions would decrease by 89%, water use by 87% and land use by 96%, according to the Good Food Institute. Even without a large-scale overhaul of animal meat, the individual choice to consume plant- based meat can still make a noteworthy difference in reducing agricultural expansion and environmental damage. Thus, meat alternatives are more sustainable and environmentally friendly because they require fewer resources and generate substantially lower greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to the environmental impacts, ethical concerns surrounding meat consumption are helping plant-based meat gain traction. According to the World Animal Foundation, 99% of farm animals in the U.S. live on factory farms, which practice intensive agriculture designed to maximize production while minimizing costs. These farms raise animals in confined spaces such as cages where their movement is extremely inhibited. To keep up with the growing global demand for meat, many farms also forcefully feed or inject hormones into their livestock. For those who are uncomfortable with the ethics of modern factory farming, plant-based meat substitutes provide the taste and texture of meat without contributing to animal suffering.

Still, though plant-based meat is a more sustainable option, it is also often a more expensive one. Meat processing companies are larger and can produce higher quantities of meat at lower cost, while plant-based meat— though growing in popularity—is still a relatively niche industry that has not yet developed economies of scale. Thus, there are many who simply do not have access to sustainable meat alternatives because of their location or income. Nevertheless, for those who do have the ability to choose, plant-based meat is the more ethical, environmentally friendly choice.