Editorial - Don't believe the hype around plant-based alternatives and Australian chicken

An opinion piece by Dr Stephen Wiedemann, Managing Director and Principal Scientist at Integrity Ag and Environment Pty Ltd, explains why many of the plant-based meat alternatives may not be as environmentally sustainable or nutritious as their marketing claims.


The Poultry Site

7 June 2021


Veggie burgers aren’t new, but it’s only relatively recently that marketing of plant-based alternatives (PBAs) has shifted from targeting vegetarian consumers to targeting environmentally conscious meat eaters.


Manufacturers of PBAs have not been shy in touting their products as disrupters and market leaders in terms of environmental impacts. The manufacturers of Quorn claim that it has a “70% lower carbon footprint than chicken”, Sunfed chicken-free chicken is marketed as “healthier, both for you and the planet”, and choosing Beyond Meat over traditional meat products will reportedly “address four growing global issues: human health, climate change, constraints on natural resources and animal welfare.”


But do the claims stack up when they are compared to Australian chicken meat? We investigated this and found lots of reasons to question the claims.


Firstly, claims are often vague. If a product is compared to “meat” what meat is being referred to? While some manufacturers have directly compared to beef (ie Impossible Burger) we found no studies that compared to Australian chicken. There is a wide range of differences in the environmental impacts of the different meat types. In fact, chicken meat has a lower greenhouse gas impact than most other meats (see references below), so any comparison needs to take this into account before making a claim. To be meaningful, comparisons must compare like with like; if they’re not, they’re potentially misleading... 


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