Plant-based proteins

An introduction to plant-based meat, eggs, dairy, and seafood: what it is, why we need it, and how we can advance it.

Credit: Tender Food

What is plant-based meat, egg, dairy and seafood?

Plant-based meat is produced directly from plants. Instead of relying on an animal to convert plants into meat or other animal-sourced foods, we can make meat more efficiently by skipping the animal and turning plant ingredients directly into meat and other protein-rich foods.

Like animal-based foods, plant-based foods are composed of protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water. The new generation of plant-based foods looks, cooks, and tastes like meat, eggs, dairy, and seafood.

Alternatives to meat, like tofu and tempeh, have been around for thousands of years. In the last century, new plant-based foods have been developed, although remaining small and relatively stagnant until recently. In recent years, food scientists have developed plant-based recipes that deliver the flavor, texture, and overall experience of eating meat, dairy, and more, without the problems of industrial animal agriculture.

Why do we need plant-based proteins?

Plant-based foods deliver the familiar flavor and texture of conventionally produced animal-sourced food products, with a vastly reduced environmental impact, better health outcomes, and without harming animals.

Analyses of the environmental impact of plant-based meat show that plant-based meat production uses 72–99 percent less water and 47–99 percent less land. Further, it causes 51–91 percent less water pollution and emits 30–90 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions. By transitioning to plant-based meat and other alternative proteins, we can use far fewer natural resources and enable entire ecosystems—and the biodiversity those systems support—to recover, function, and thrive.

Plant-based meat is also made in clean environments without animals or exposure to fecal pathogens, and no antibiotics are needed, so these foods help reduce the risk of zoonotic diseases, prevent foodborne illnesses, and preserve life-saving antibiotics for human medicine.

Plant-based proteins and health

While academics and policymakers are beginning to recognize the advantages of plant-based meat, many still have questions about its nutritional benefits. GFI Europe’s report offers an overview of current evidence, frequently asked questions, and key priorities for plant-based meat and public health. GFI Europe also discusses how despite being associated with ultra-processed foods, plant-based meat is very different from many kinds of food in this category because the processing used to make plant-based meat can actually improve its nutritional profile.

How can we advance plant-based proteins in Israel?

Creating the flavors and textures of meat using plants involves finding novel ingredients and using new science and technology. Few of the world’s plant protein sources have been rigorously explored or optimized for plant-based proteins, and access to the latest technology is limited, so we are only in the early stages of plant-based protein innovation.

To maximize the benefits of plant-based foods, we need public investment in research and development focused on enhancing taste, reducing prices, and streamlining supply chains. These advancements will help make these sustainable options the default choice for consumers across Israel. Investment in infrastructure, workforce training, and optimizing processing techniques will be crucial to the plant-based sector’s success.

The market for plant-based meat has grown dramatically in recent years. Since GFI began publishing market data in 2017, retail growth has increased by double-digits every year, far outpacing conventional meat sales. The world’s biggest food and meat companies—from Tyson to Nestle—have also successfully introduced and marketed new plant-based meat products. Consumer demand is growing, and we at GFI are working to accelerate efforts in academia, public policy, and the private sector to develop technology and supply chains.

Credit: YoEgg

Plant-based food science

Learn more about the science and technology behind plant-based proteins: how they are made and what are the gaps where more research is needed to accelerate the transition to a sustainable, secure, and just food system.

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