Eat fungus, save forests

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Changing a fifth of the meat individuals eat with fungi-based meat options by 2050 might halve deforestation, a research suggests.

Meat from “ruminants” resembling cattle contributes to local weather change as a result of carbon-storing forests are reduce down for grazing land or crops that make up animal feed, whereas the livestock additionally produce methane emissions.

In addition to dropping meat in favour of extra greens to chop the local weather influence of meals, options embrace plant-based ones resembling soybean burgers, cultured meat or animal cells grown in a petri dish, and protein from microbes resembling fungi produced in a fermentation course of utilizing sugar.


Scientists say this microbial meat various – which individuals can already purchase within the retailers – is a protein-rich meals that may style and really feel like purple meat and be as nutritious.

Analysis by the Potsdam Institute for Local weather Impression Analysis (PIK) modelled the longer term environmental results of substituting ruminant meat with microbial protein, bearing in mind meals demand and diets, inhabitants development and land use.

With a rising inhabitants and elevated meat consumption, an increasing number of forests and different pure vegetation could possibly be cleared for grazing and crop land.

However the projections, revealed within the journal Nature, present that substituting 20 p.c of ruminant meat consumption per particular person with microbial protein by 2050 stops the rise in pasture areas wanted for livestock grazing.

And whereas demand for sugar cane as a feedstock for fermentation of the protein will increase, the necessity for animal feed crops is lowered.


The swap would reduce annual deforestation and associated carbon dioxide emissions by 56% in contrast with business-as-usual tendencies, the research estimates.

It will additionally decrease emissions of different greenhouse gases together with methane, and nitrous oxide from fertiliser or manure.

Florian Humpenoder, researcher at PIK and lead writer of the research, mentioned: “The meals system is on the root of a 3rd of world greenhouse fuel emissions, with ruminant meat manufacturing being the only largest supply.”

Switching out beef for microbial protein sooner or later might significantly scale back the greenhouse fuel footprint of the meals system, he mentioned.

“The excellent news is that individuals don’t should be afraid they will eat solely greens sooner or later. They’ll proceed consuming burgers and the like, it’s simply that these burger patties might be produced another way.”


Additional will increase in microbial protein as a substitute for beef ship additional, however comparatively much less dramatic, cuts to deforestation and emissions.

There are additionally considerations about shifting “meat” manufacturing from livestock to heated fermentation tanks which require vitality for the method.

Co-author Alexander Popp, chief of the land use administration group at PIK, mentioned: “A big-scale transformation in the direction of biotech meals requires a large-scale decarbonisation of electrical energy era in order that the local weather safety potential might be totally developed.

“But if we do that correctly, microbial protein may also help meat-lovers embrace the change. It will probably actually make a distinction.”

This Writer

Emily Beament is the PA setting correspondent.

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