Environmental Effects Of Protein-Rich Food Products
In late 2008, the Dutch Vegetarian Association studied the environmental consequences of substituting vegetable proteins for animal proteins in the Dutch diet. By looking at both the product and menu levels of consumer diets, the environmental burdens of both types of products were analyzed and researchers concluded that ecological impacts of both animal and vegetable protein sources can vary significantly.
Although both dairy and meat products are known to contribute a substantial amount of greenhouse gas emissions and land use for protein consumption, the precise impact a switch in proteins may have on the environment can vary dramatically. Logically, a drastic replacement of animal proteins with vegetable proteins would have a more significant effect on the overall greenhouse gas effects of consumption, while a more minor switch from animal to vegetable proteins (i.e. one meat free day per week) would yield a more moderate effect on gas emissions.
This research also concluded that the greatest overall potential for making reductions is through the replacement of both meat and dairy products with vegetable-based alternatives. However, not all consumers may be willing to transition completely away from all animal-based products. Consequently, researchers also found that even changing from one type of meat to another type of meat can reduce the overall level of greenhouse gas emissions, but replacing meat with dairy products like cheese, on average, does not lead to an overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
This report also provides specific data on greenhouse gas emissions for various types of food products and the processes involved in creating them.