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Advantages and Disadvantages of Plant-Based Meat


Plant-based meats are rapidly gaining popularity across the globe, especially due to the wide-scale concern about the effects of red meat on human health and climate change. These are red meat alternatives designed to mimic the sensory experience and the nutritional value of red meat by using processed proteins, fats and other novel additives from plants. Companies such as Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat are at the forefront, and the industry is expected to have a net worth of more than 30 billion dollars by 2026(Van Vliet et al., 2020). However, despite the health and climate benefits, there is a massive concern that plant-based meats are not a true replacement for red meats in terms of nutrition. This paper analyzes the advantages and disadvantages of plant-based meat alternatives.


According to Hu et al. (2019), plant-based meat results in lower risks of health complications caused by red meat, such as cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, obesity and some cancers. Plant-based meats use a reductionist approach when mimicking red meat; hence nutrients with high-risk factors for these conditions are limited, such as saturated fats, sodium, and lipoprotein cholesterol(Panoff, 2022). On the other hand, essential nutrients such as fiber are increased in these plant-meat products, reducing many chronic diseases. Unlike red meat, the nutritional component of plant-based meats can be controlled to ensure further health protection.

Van Vliet et al. (2020) argues that plant-based meat alternatives result in a lower carbon footprint compared to industrial animal production of meat. Conventional livestock rearing emits greenhouse gasses such as methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen. Livestock meat production also requires large tracts of land, and agricultural freshwater, which provide valuable carbon sinks. Nonetheless, waste from livestock meat production contaminates natural resources such as teams and rivers. For instance, in a life cycle assessment of Beyond Burger by the University of Michigan, it was revealed that it generates 90% less greenhouse gas emissions, requires 46% less energy, uses 99% less water and has 93% less impact on land compared to burgers made from US beef. Widespread production of plant-based meats offers a great opportunity to conserve the environment and mitigate climate change.


According to Van Vliet et al.(2020), fortifying foods to mimic natural food sources can lose essential nutrients, negatively impacting health. Natural meat contains hundreds to thousands of biochemicals crucial to human metabolisms, such as hormones and growth factors. While some of these essential biochemicals could be left out in the reductionist approach used in making plant-based meats, combining several isolated nutrients cannot be compared to the true complexity and health benefits of eating whole foods. Ingesting these isolated nutrients outside their natural food matrices hinders their optimal performance in promoting human metabolism and, consequently, health due to reduced bioavailability. Therefore, they are more likely to put vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly and nursing mothers at greater risk of nutritional deficiencies.

Consuming diets rich in ultra-processed food such as plant-based meats results in excess calorie intake and weight gain. Beyond Meat and Impossible Burgers uses highly refined and purified protein isolates rather than whole foods; they also have fillers and additives which could be harmful. These products also have added sodium, almost six times the sodium content of animal meat-based equivalent (Richards, 2021). High sodium intake increases the risk factors for cardiovascular diseases by increasing blood further, consequently increasing risk factors for stroke. According to Hu et al.(2019), these plant-based meat products such as burgers are often taken in fast food restaurants where they are more likely to be served with refined grain burn, fries and sugar beverages, resulting in overall poor diet quality.


This study reveals that plant-based meat can reduce the global burden of chronic diseases caused by the overreliance on red meat and has massive potential in alleviating the large carbon footprint caused by industrial animal meat production. However, these plant-based diets might fail to offer a true nutritional replacement for meat, resulting in nutritional deficiencies for populations. Though limited studies prove that plant-based meat can fully substitute meat, I believe it is a significant move towards a healthy population and planet. Already there is an unprecedented challenge in feeding the billions of populations across the globe, and just like energy, meat demand will increase(Hu et al., 2019). Though product reformulations and technological innovations present a challenge in assessing plant-based meat products, nutritional policies and dietary guidelines should be enacted to ensure that every product meets the amount of the required nutrients.


Hu, F. B., Otis, B. O., & McCarthy, G. (2019). Can plant-based meat alternatives be part of a healthy and sustainable diet? JAMA322(16), 1547.

Panoff, L. (2022, January 4). Is plant-based meat healthy? Nutrients, benefits, downsides. Healthline.

Richards, L. (2021, August 24). Is plant-based meat healthy? Medical and health information.

Van Vliet, S., Kronberg, S. L., & Provenza, F. D. (2020). Plant-based meats, human health, and climate change. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems4(128), 1-17.


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