Moving from pork to soy-based meat substitutes: Evaluating environmental impacts in relation to nutritional values

Elsevier, Future Foods, Volume 5, June 2022
Van Mierlo K., Baert L., Bracquene E., De Tavernier J., Geeraerd A.

Meat induces large environmental impact while supplying important nutrients, and meat substitutes are increasingly adopted as direct replacers of meat products. This study assessed the environmental impact of a pork schnitzel and two soy-based schnitzels in terms of three different functional units to reflect the products’ functions as meal components and suppliers of high quality proteins. For a functional unit of 1 kg of product, the pork schnitzel induces the largest environmental impact for most environmental impact indicators. For functional units considering protein contents and protein quality, the impact of the soy schnitzels is higher than that of the pork schnitzel for multiple environmental impact indicators. The vegan soy schnitzel shows a lower impact than the vegetarian one, especially when the protein quality is considered. The largest contributor to the environmental impact of the pork schnitzel is pig feed and energy use during slaughtering and meat processing. The largest contributors to the environmental impact of the soy schnitzels are soy protein concentrate, sunflower oil and energy, and chicken egg protein for the vegetarian soy schnitzel. In sum, it is environmentally and nutritionally more beneficial to replace the pork schnitzel with the vegan soy schnitzel than the vegetarian soy schnitzel.