Plant food companies face criticism from environmental activists

In recent years, consumers and investors have gobbled up Beyond Meat’s burgers, hot dogs and chicken, thanks, at least in part, to the company’s message that its plant-based products are good for the skin. ‘environment.

But some people are not so sure.

An investor tracking company gives Beyond Meat a zero rating on sustainability metrics. Another classifies him as a “serious risk”, equating him with JBS and Tyson, the meat and chicken processing giants.

“We don’t think we have enough information to say that Beyond Meat is fundamentally different from JBS,” said Roxana Dobre, head of consumer goods research at Sustainalytics, a company that assesses the sustainability of companies based on their environmental impact. , social and corporate governance.

At first glance, it seems logical to think that plant-based food companies like Beyond Meat and its private rival Impossible Foods are better for the environment than meat processors like JBS. These processors slaughter and pack millions of head of cattle each year, which helps release huge amounts of methane into the atmosphere.

The problem, critics say, is that neither Beyond Meat nor Impossible Foods disclose the amount of greenhouse gas emissions generated by their operations, supply chains, or consumer waste. They also do not disclose the effects of their operations on forests or the amount of water they use.

However, on its website, Beyond Meat claims that consumers who switch their diets from animal protein to plant protein can “positively affect the planet, the environment, the climate and even their own lives.” Impossible Foods says embracing plant-based meats “may be better than installing solar panels, driving an electric car, or avoiding the use of plastic straws” to reduce your environmental footprint.

“The dominant narrative from the plant products industry and the venture capitalists who support it is that these companies are more beneficial for the environment, for health, for this and for that,” explained Ricardo San Martin, research director for the program. of alternative meats at the University of California, Berkeley campus. But it’s actually a black box. Much of the content of these products is withheld. All companies have a supply chain, and there is a carbon footprint behind that chain ”.

By some estimates, the agriculture industry produces a third of the world’s greenhouse gases linked to human activity, is a major driver of deforestation and uses up to 70 percent of the planet’s freshwater supply. .

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