Published in Applied Research
Potential impact of meat replacers on nutrient quality and greenhouse gas emissions

Meat replacers could play a role in achieving more plant-based diets, but their current consumption is limited. The present modelling study published in Sustainability journal aimed to explore the nutritional and greenhouse gas emissions impacts of meat replacers.

Using dietary surveys from Denmark, Czech Republic, Italy and France (~6500 adults), Dutch Researchers composed alternative diets in which all the meat in the observed diet (in grams) was substituted by similar use meat replacers (with and without fortification). Starting from the observed diets and meat-replacement diets, diets with improved adherence to food-based dietary guidelines (FBDGs) were modelled using Data Envelopment Analysis. These improved diets were then further optimised for dietary preferences (MaxP, diet similarity index), nutrient quality (MaxH, Nutrient Rich Diet score, NRD15.3) or diet-related greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) (MaxS, CO2equivalents). In all optimised modelled diets, the total amount of meat was lower than in the observed diets, i.e., 30% lower in the MaxP, 50% lower in the MaxH, and 75% lower in the MaxS diets. In the MaxP diet, NRD15.3 was ~6% higher, GHGE was ~9% lower, and ~83% of food intake remained similar. In the MaxH diet, NRD15.3 was ~17% higher, GHGE was ~15% lower, and ~66% of food intake remained similar. In the MaxS diet, NRD15.3 was ~9% higher, GHGE was ~33% lower, and ~65% of food intake remained similar. When using fortified meat replacers, for all modelled diets, the diet similarity was on average 2% lower and the GHGE reduction was on average 3% higher as compared with the same scenarios without fortification. 

This analysis showed that meat replacers, provided their preference is similar to meat, can provide benefits for GHGE, without necessarily compromising nutrient quality. 

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