Tofu more harmful than meat?

Ditching a diet of meat for imitations such as tofu and Quorn could be more damaging to the environment, a report from a charity has found.

WWF-UK’s latest study into food production and carbon emissions, entitled How Low Can We Go?, says that replacing meat such as beef with highly refined meat substitutes could actually increase the quantity of arable land needed to supply demand compared to livestock farming.

However, the report calls for a reduction in meat consumption and says that a broad-based switch to plant-based products in the diet, by increasing the intake of cereals and vegetables, is the most sustainable option.

Mark Driscoll, from WWF-UK, said some of the issues in the report, particularly the need for changes in food consumption, were likely to prove controversial. “This report looks at the whole food chain – from producers to consumers. It provides an indication of the emissions from UK food consumption, including those attributed to land-use change in other parts of the world. The results are striking and increase the pressure on some of the big issues being discussed,” he said.

The study looked at a range of scenarios to reduce emissions by 70%, focusing on areas such as decarbonisation of the energy used in transport,  reductions in emissions from livestock and fertilisers through improved genetics and technological advancements and changes in consumption.

Tara Garnett, head of the Food Climate Research Network, who was involved with the report, added: “We now know enough to conclude that the food system contributes very substantially to the problem of climate change. We also know enough about where and how the impacts arise to start doing something about them. Business as usual is no longer an option.”