We’re on track to set a new record for global meat consumption

That’s a problem for the climate. But the solution can’t be to tell people to stop eating meat.


by Dan Blaustein-Rejto and Alex Smith, MIT Technology Review

April 26, 2021


Bill Gates made headlines earlier this year for saying that “all rich countries should move to 100% synthetic beef” in an interview with MIT Technology Review about the release of his new book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster. Although he recognized the political difficulty of telling Americans they can’t eat any more red meat, Gates said he sees real potential in plant-based alternatives from companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods.


Nevertheless, the world is expected to eat more meat in 2021 than ever before. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization projects that global meat consumption will rise by more than 1% this year. The fastest growth will occur in low- and middle-income countries, where incomes are steadily climbing.


This will generate more greenhouse-gas emissions; global emissions from food production are expected to rise 60% by 2050, in large part because of increased livestock production.


However, trying to steer people’s tastes away from meat is unlikely to reverse this trend. After decades of public health campaigns in the US, beef consumption per capita has fallen substantially but still remains higher than in nearly any other country.


Instead, policymakers and environmental groups should support efforts to develop alternative protein sources and low-impact methods of livestock production. Innovation in both of these areas will give us the best shot at quickly reducing agriculture’s environmental impact while still allowing people everywhere to eat what they want.


Meat replacements can only take us so far ...


Climate-friendly livestock ...


Doing more with less ...


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