Harvard Law School Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation (Website) 

The Harvard Law School Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation (CHLPI) advocates for legal, regulatory, and policy reforms in health and food systems, with a focus on the health, public health, and food needs of systemically marginalized individuals. CHLPI’s broad range of initiatives aim to expand access to high-quality health care and nutritious, affordable food; to reduce health- and food-related disparities; to develop community advocacy capacity; and, to promote more equitable, sustainable and effective health care and food systems. CHLPI’s Food is Medicine initiative promotes access to healthy food as an essential component of holistic health care that should be considered a reimbursable, core medical service and advances key legal and policy levers that help to increase access to healthy foods. Some of CHLPI’s work to date includes releasing two national reports: Food is Medicine: Opportunities in Public and Private Health Care for Supporting Nutritional Counseling and Medically Tailored, Home-Delivered Meals and Food is Prevention: The Case for Integrating Food and Nutrition Interventions into Healthcare. CHLPI is a clinical teaching program of Harvard Law School and mentors students to become skilled, innovative, and thoughtful practitioners as well as leaders in public health, and food law and policy.

Practice Greenhealth (website)

Practice Greenhealth is a membership and networking organization for sustainable health care, delivering environmental solutions to hospitals and health systems across the United States. More than 1 in every 3 hospitals in the USA is part of the network. Members and partners include hospitals and health care systems, health care providers, manufacturers and service providers, architectural, engineering and design firms, group purchasing organizations, and affiliated nonprofit organizations. Working closely with Practice Greenhealth, Health Care Without Harm seeks to transform health care worldwide so it reduces its environmental footprint and becomes a leader in the global movement for environmental health and justice. Practice Greenhealth has a page dedicated to food improve the health of patients, staff, and the surrounding community by serving sustainable food.

Environmentally sustainable hospital foodservices: Drawing on staff perspectives to guide change (2021 January)

Citation: Carino S, Collins J, Malekpour S, Porter J. Environmentally sustainable hospital foodservices: Drawing on staff perspectives to guide change. Sustainable Production and Consumption. 2021/01/01/;25:152-61. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.spc.2020.08.003 (note: there is a paywall to access the full study)

Relevant to: 

Dietitians-Nutritionists working in hospitals or in food services.

Question: 

Forty-six stakeholders working across the hospital supply chain in three Australian hospitals were interviewed regarding their perspectives on: (1) sustainable and unsustainable practices in hospital food provision; (2) barriers and enablers of sustainable practices; and (3) future recommendations for implementing sustainable foodservice practices.

Bottom line for nutrition practice: 

This paper identifies specific sustainable and unsustainable practices across the hospital food chain under the following categories:

  • procurement;
  • food processing (central production kitchen);
  • food service model/ menu design;
  • meal ordering and selection;
  • food preparation;
  • patient consumption;
  • food waste;
  • waste management.

The abstract below summarizes current sustainable and unsustainable practices as well as barriers and enablers to improving sustainability. Future recommendations were generated under 3 themes:

  • (1) practice recommendations;
  • (2) knowledge generation/ sharing recommendations and
  • (3) leadership and policy recommendations. 

The authors emphasize the importance of involving staff in making changes, and suggest that creating best practice guidelines for sustainability within food services could address one of the key barriers identified.

Abstract:

Foodservice is a key contributor to environmental impacts of the healthcare sector, in particular hospitals. Driving towards sustainable solutions in foodservices can bring financial and social benefits, whilst allowing hospitals to position themselves as leaders towards a sustainable food system and healthcare sector. Such a change depends on those working directly or indirectly with foodservices. Staff possess valuable knowledge, ideas, motivation and responsibility for improving the environmental sustainability of the foodservice system.

The aim of this study was to explore the perspectives of staff working across the hospital food supply chain towards: (1) sustainable practices in hospital food provision; (2) existing barriers and enablers; and (3) recommendations for implementing sustainable foodservice practices in the future.

Through qualitative inquiry, semi-structured interviews were conducted with individuals at operational and management levels responsible for policy, purchasing, production, onsite plating and delivery and waste disposal at three hospitals in Australia. Framework analysis was used to synthesise transcribed data into practices, barriers and enablers, and recommendations. Interviews (n=46 participants) identified current sustainable practices including those related to recyclable packaging, effective equipment and technology and efficient processes.

  • Unsustainable practices included restrictions on sourcing food, packaging that cannot be separated or recycled, rigid foodservice models and menu, waste production and processes.
  • Enablers to improve sustainability included the power of individuals to influence change, education on recycling, knowledge generation, audits and grants for innovative research, rebates and quality improvement processes.
  • Barriers included competing priorities, poor communication, lack of training opportunities and knowledge, infection control restrictions, lack of policy, funding, and time between meal ordering and delivery.
  • Participants proposed practice changes across the food supply chain and recommended generation and sharing of knowledge, leadership and policy support.
  • Perspectives of individuals within foodservice reveal shared motivation and desire for sustainable foodservices, with support needed from leaders and policy.
  • Future research should use a co-design approach involving staff to create and implement sustainable strategies within hospitals. To see widespread and timely change, action is needed towards effective and meaningful policy.

Details of results: 

In providing a background to the study, the authors note that the health care supply chain accounts for 71% of health care greenhouse gas emissions, and food is part of the supply chain. In addition to emissions, food also accounts for freshwater and land use, among other environmental impacts, so it is an important consideration for sustainability. The authors stress that examining the way food is managed in hospitals, including studying decisions points at each part of the hospital food supply chain, is important to effectively mitigating environmental impacts. They also suggest that there is a lack of research examining this issue from a systems perspective.

Interviewees included: policy makers; group purchasers; health service managers; central production kitchen staff; food preparation (food services staff, managers and supervisors); nurses; dietitians and waste management staff.

Some specific sustainable practices identified but not listed in the abstract include: “use of water technology to prevent the need for chemical cleaning products”; “use of metal trays”; “electronic menus”; decreasing time between ordering and delivery; “chemical free kitchen”; “patient meal time assistance”; “food waste audit and research”; waste management innovation (p. 155). Other unsustainable practices identified include: lack of organic meat or cage free alternatives; not following standardized recipes; relying on meat and dairy for protein; plastic packaging for individual pre portioned meals; patient difficulty to open items (leading to food waste); food waste technology not provided or working. 

Key barriers and enablers were categorized under several themes. First, under “people and their power and motivation” (p.156), individuals who advocated for change as well as the power of a sustainability team were identified as enablers; it was also noted that patient feedback on food quality enables change, as this is required to meet performance indicators. Second, “competing priorities for action” (p.156) was noted as a barrier, such as infection control requirements which restricted the reuse of unopened, individually pre-packaged foods. Third, while “education training and knowledge generation/ sharing” (p.156) can be an enabler (noting the powerful influence of data), gaps exist (e.g., in orientation training; lack of awareness of best practices). Next, many gaps exist under “policy influence”, including lack of best practice standards. Sustainable procurement can also be difficult as a result of supply contracts. Interviewees also noted that sustainability should be legislated if governments consider it a priority. Finally, foodservice systems can present opportunities (e.g., opening a new kitchen), but gaps were also identified (e.g., food waste resulting from delays between meal ordering and delivery, and as a result of offering a wide range of meal options).

Future recommendations were generated under three themes. First, “practice recommendations” (p. 158) included strategies such as reducing the frequency of meat on the menu and including more plant based options; reducing time between ordering and meal delivery; soliciting patient feedback; reducing food packaging; creating a vegetable garden on site and using generated compost on it. Second “knowledge generation/ sharing recommendations” (p. 158) included recommendations such as the creation of best practice guidelines, increased communication about effective strategies, using business cases to support practices, learning from other institutions, and including sustainability information in orientation sessions. Third, “leadership and policy recommendations” (p. 158) included actions such as funding a sustainability officer and creating a hospital sustainability policy which includes food.

Of additional interest: 

Editor’s comment:  

Interested Dietitians-Nutritionists may want to access the full article, as it identifies many practical actions at various points along the hospital food chain. 

Open access link to article: 

N/A – there is a pay wall to access the article (see citation above)

Conflict of interest/ Funding: 

The authors reported no conflict of interests.   

External relevant links: 

Corresponding author:

Stefanie.carino@monash.edu

Sustainable Institutional Food Procurement Insights, lessons, and recommendations from a Churchill Fellowship (2022)

Governments have few sources of leverage over increasingly globalized food systems – but public procurement is one of them. When sourcing food for schools, hospitals and public administrations, Governments have a rare opportunity to support more nutritious diets and more sustainable food systems in one fell swoop,” – Olivier De Schutter United Nations Special Rapporteur On The Right To Food (2014)

In May and June of 2022, the author of the report on Sustainable Institutional Procurement, Leah Galvin attended meetings and site visits in the USA, Canada, England, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland where the was researching models and approaches that increase the procurement by public institutions of local, healthy and/ or sustainable food. Public food can create public good – economically, environmentally, socially and for our health. Public (government funded) food procurement by institutions can be driven by a range of values: the kind of food purchased, from whom it is purchased and the production method. Institutions include – hospitals, universities, aged care, preschools, schools, prisons, workplace canteens/catering and community meal programs such as meals on wheels.

Author Leah Galvin, recipient of the 2019 Churchill Fellow explains: In writing this report I have had practitioners, government policymakers, food systems advocates, philanthropic investors, and food service and institutional procurement professionals in mind. You can read it all or just cherry-pick parts which are most helpful to you. Much of it is practical, and translatable to the Australian context and I hope affirming for those keen to values-based procurement widely practiced. If you have a sustainability mindset, this report can provide you with a new way to think about how our food system is part of the emissions reduction solution, because sustainable institutional food procurement in Australia, remains the sleeping giant of food systems transformation.

Also see Leah’s infographic on the same topic at this link in this #ICDAsfsToolkit.

Identifying effective interventions to promote consumption of protein-rich foods from lower ecological footprint sources: A systematic literature review (2022)

Ronto R, Saberi G, Leila Robbers GM, Godrich S, Lawrence M, et al. (2022) Identifying effective interventions to promote consumption of protein-rich foods from lower ecological footprint sources: A systematic literature review. PLOS Global Public Health 2(3): e0000209. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgph.0000209

Open access link to article: 

https://journals.plos.org/globalpublichealth/article?id=10.1371/journal.pgph.0000209

Relevant to: 

Public health nutrition, sustainability 

Question: 

To identify effective interventions to promote intake of protein-rich foods from lower ecological footprint.

Bottom line for nutrition practice: 

There is a clear gap in the current evidence base for interventions that promote plant-based diet in the general population.

Abstract: 

Addressing overconsumption of protein-rich foods from high ecological footprint sources can have positive impacts on health such as reduction of non-communicable disease risk and protecting the natural environment. With the increased attention towards development of ecologically sustainable diets, this systematic review aimed to critically review literature on effectiveness of those interventions aiming to promote protein-rich foods from lower ecological footprint sources.

Five electronic databases (Medline, Web of Science, Scopus, Embase and Global Health) were searched for articles published up to January 2021. Quantitative studies were eligible for inclusion if they reported on actual or intended consumption of protein-rich animal-derived and/or plant-based foods; purchase, or selection of meat/plant-based diet in real or virtual environments. We assessed 140 full-text articles for eligibility of which 51 were included in this review.

The results were narratively synthesised. Included studies were categorised into individual level behaviour change interventions (n = 33) which included education, counselling and self-monitoring, and micro-environmental/structural behaviour change interventions (n = 18) which included menu manipulation, choice architecture and multicomponent approaches. Half of individual level interventions (52%) aimed to reduce red/processed meat intake among people with current/past chronic conditions which reduced meat intake in the short term. The majority of micro-environmental studies focused on increasing plant-based diet in dining facilities, leading to positive dietary changes. These findings point to a clear gap in the current evidence base for interventions that promote plant-based diet in the general population.

Details of results: 

Limitations

  • One limitation of this review is that most of the included studies have been conducted in high income countries and only a few studies were conducted in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). This might be due to the fact that plant-based diet concept in high income countries has received increased attention in the last five years and LMICs have not prioritised it as a significant nutrition and environmental issue due to dealing with other diet related issues such as undernutrition and nutrient deficiencies. Research indicates that meat intake in LMIC has been associated with wealth as the rise in income has resulted in significant animal-derived food consumption in these countries [85].
  • Furthermore, most studies used self-reported measures to measure dietary behaviours which may increase biases [86].
  • Also, this review was limited to the literature published in English language and did not included articles published in grey literature, therefore it may be we missed some important research written in other languages. Finally, the majority of individual level behaviour change interventions included people who may be highly motivated to change their dietary behaviour such as cancer survivors, people at risk of developing chronic conditions, limiting the generalizability of the data to general population.

Results

The present review identified effective individual and micro-environmental behaviour change interventions which showed promising results in reducing protein intake from high ecological footprint sources.

  • The findings suggest that individual behaviour change interventions such as education, counselling and self-monitoring interventions might be useful strategies to educate people to change their dietary behaviours to more sustainable ones. However, there is a need to test these strategies among the general population longitudinally.
  • In addition, our findings showed that altering food environments using nudging and choice architecture approaches can achieve positive dietary changes but there is a need for development and evaluation of interventions in general settings (macro-environments) and explore motivations in sustainable food purchasing behaviours.

Our findings inform future research for development and evaluation of interventions and strategies to encourage greater adoption of sustainable and healthy diets.

Of additional interest: 

  • See the article reference list

Editor’s comment:  

n/a

Conflict of interest/ Funding:  

None to declare

External relevant links:  

n/a

Corresponding author: 

Dr Rimante Ronto
Department of Health Sciences, Macquarie University, Australia
Rimante.ronto@mq.edu.au

Reduce, Recover, Recycle—Food Waste in Prince George’s County, Maryland USA (2019)

This study describes Prince George’s County‘s problem of food waste; explains national and state efforts to reduce food waste; explores the behaviors and beliefs of residents, businesses, institutions, and organizations regarding food waste. It presents policy recommendations and strategies, supported by national promising practices, to reduce, recover, and recycle food waste in the County. By creating awareness, this study seeks to reduce food waste in the County. Reducing local food waste may help eliminate food insecurity, protect the environment, and boost the economy.

Coordinator’s note: Although this study is for a county, it provides an excellent example of what you can do where you are as well – either mimicking their study or using some of their ideas in your food council or other group or institution.

Food as Medicine: How Food and Diet Impact the Treatment of Disease and Disease Management (2022 Mar)

The Center for Food as Medicine and Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center aim to bridge the gap between traditional medicine and the use of food as medicine in the prevention and treatment of disease. This comprehensive narrative review and report is divided into five parts, including: 1) background information on the history of using food to treat disease, 2) modern challenges to widespread use and acceptance of food as medicine practices, 3) current evidence about contemporary food as medicine practices (such as medically tailored meals, produce prescriptions, and functional foods), 4) literature review of food as treatment for specific disease states, and 5) recommendations to stakeholders (including policymakers, health care professionals, and academics) to contribute to a healthier, more equitable health care system.


Food is Medicine Research Action Plan (2022 Jan)

The research on Food is Medicine builds upon a large and robust body of evidence that links food insecurity to poor health outcomes, both physical and mental. Research repeatedly demonstrates that food insecurity is associated with increased health care use and spending.

The Action Plan provides a comprehensive analysis to date of research on medically tailored meals, medically tailored groceries, and produce prescriptions. The greatest challenge—and starting point for this Action Plan—is how to propel rigorous, high-impact, translatable research that can quickly bring necessary reforms to our health care and food systems. The Action Plan is written for: Researchers; Funders; Food is Medicine program implementers; Advocates for increasing access to Food is Medicine interventions. It is focused on the USA but could be useful to anyone in the world to consider their own Food is Medicine Action Plan.

The research included in this report was made possible through funding by the Walmart Foundation. The findings, conclusions, and recommendations presented in this report are those of Food & Society at the Aspen Institute and the Center for Health Law Policy Innovation (CHLPI) alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Walmart Foundation.

Downer S, Clippinger E, Kummer C. Food is Medicine Research Action Plan. Published Jan. 27, 2022.

Plant-Based Meat and Dairy Substitutes as Appropriate Alternatives to Animal-Based Products? (2020)

Khandpur N, Martinez-Steele E, Sun Q. Plant-Based Meat and Dairy Substitutes as Appropriate Alternatives to Animal-Based Products? The Journal of Nutrition. 2020;151(1):3-4. 

Relevant to: 

All Dietitians-Nutritionists.

Question: 

This commentary poses practice and research questions about the nutrition and environmental consequences of the increased production and intake of ultra-processed plant-based meat and dairy substitutes. Their commentary reflects upon results from a study also reviewed on this website:  

Gehring J, Touvier M, Baudry J, Julia C, Buscail C, Srour B, et al. Consumption of Ultra-Processed Foods by Pesco-Vegetarians, Vegetarians, and Vegans: Associations with Duration and Age at Diet Initiation. The Journal of Nutrition. 2020;151(1):120-31. 

Bottom line for nutrition practice: 

The Gehring et al. (2020) article illustrated a high intake of plant-based meat and dairy substitutes (PMDSs) by vegetarians. The study classified these foods as ultra-processed foods (UPFs), based on the NOVA classification of foods by level of processing (see: of additional interest). The authors of the commentary suggest that the substantial increase in the development and marketing of these products over the last few years has the potential to have a large impact on the nutritional quality of diets for vegetarians (and we would argue for any transitioning to a more plant-based diet).  

The authors of this commentary argue that we need a greater knowledge of PMDSs, including their degree of processing and the nutrient profile of the individual foods and the dietary patterns within which they are consumed. They also call for more research on the health and environmental impacts of PMDSs, as well as research instruments to examine these questions.  

Abstract:

N/A (Commentary)  

Details of results: 

Research trends in Europe suggest that the market for PMDSs will grow by almost 75% between 2018-2023. While the authors note that these products help in the transition toward a plant-based diet, they suggest that it is important to examine how this increase will affect nutritional intake. For example, while eating high quality plant-based foods rather than red meat has shown health benefits, this may not be true for replacing meat with low quality plant-based carbohydrates.   

On one hand, the authors cite an industry-funded trial showing several beneficial effects of the plant-based substitutes (when compared with equivalent animal products), including lowering LDL-cholesterol. However, the authors also cite a 2019 Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report linking the intake of both plant and animal origin UPFs with chronic diseases (see “Additional Information”). They suggest that evidence about nutritional quality and the health impacts may also influence how these products are scored by measurement tools such as Alternative Healthy Eating Index and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.  

The authors also note that the environmental impacts of this shift need to be examined, including the production systems for PMDSs, which may differ from current systems and thus have the potential for different impacts.  

Of additional interest: 

The four NOVA levels of food by level of processing include: 1. Unprocessed and minimally processed foods; 2. Processed culinary ingredients; 3. Processed foods; and 4. Ultra-processed foods. 

For more information on the NOVA classification see: Monteiro, C.A., Cannon, G., Lawrence, M., Costa Louzada, M.L. and Pereira Machado, P.2019. Ultra-processed foods, diet quality, and health using the NOVA classification system. Rome, FAO. http://www.fao.org/3/ca5644en/ca5644en.pdf 

Food and Agriculture Organization. Ultra-processed foods, diet quality and human health. Rome, Italy: FAO; 2019. Available from: http://www.fao.org/publications/card/en/c/C A5644EN/  

Editor’s comment:  

There is such a wide variation in PMDS products. For example, some plant based “meat” patties have many additives, whereas some have a minimal amount of ingredients. It seems that there should be a way to differentiate between these foods. 
A discussion about this term can be found at:  
https://www.tabledebates.org/building-blocks/what-ultra-processed-food-and-why-do-people-disagree-about-its-utility-concept 

The shift toward more PMDSs also has the potential to shift overall intake toward specific foods. For example, rice can be a significant ingredient in some of these foods. As some rice has naturally occurring arsenic, does this pose a problem?   

We would also note that social sustainability of these shifts also needs to be considered. For example, the increased intake of quinoa by the West is purported to have decreased the availability of the food for local consumption where originally grown.  

See also on this site a synopsis of: Smetana S, Mathys A, Knoch A, Heinz V. Meat alternatives: life cycle assessment of most known meat substitutes. The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment. 2015 2015/09/01;20(9):1254-67. 

Open access link to article: 

N/A 

Conflict of interest/ Funding:  

No conflicts declared 

External relevant links:  

Corresponding author: 

neha.khandpur@usp.br 

Climate Impacts of Cultured Meat and Beef Cattle (2019 Feb)

Lynch J, Pierrehumbert R. Climate Impacts of Cultured Meat and Beef Cattle. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. 2019 2019-February-19;3(5). 

Relevant to: 

In addition to the results comparing the climate impacts of the two systems of meat production, this is of particular interest to Dietitians-Nutritionists who desire a deeper understanding of the differences that varying climate change metrics make on measuring the impacts of food production. 

Question: 

The authors compare cultured meat and beef system emissions on climate change. Rather than using the typical warming impact measurement of carbon dioxide equivalent comparisons, they use an atmospheric modeling approach. Three different consumption scenarios are predicted up to 1000 years in the future.    

Bottom line for nutrition practice: 

Cultured meat does not necessarily have less impact on global warming than cattle. The impact varies dependent on the production system of different ways cultured meat is produced and on different systems of producing beef. It also varies dependent on how far into the future impacts are measured; cultured meat systems have lower initial warming potential than cattle systems, but in the long term this advantage decreases, and in some scenarios cattle systems causes less warming. 

Abstract:

Improved greenhouse gas (GHG) emission efficiency of production has been proposed as one of the biggest potential advantages of cultured meat over conventional livestock production systems. Comparisons with beef are typically highlighted, as it is a highly emissions intensive food product. In this study, we present a more rigorous comparison of the potential climate impacts of cultured meat and cattle production than has previously been made. Warming impacts are evaluated using a simple climate model that simulates the different behaviors of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), rather than relying on carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) metrics. We compare the temperature impact of beef cattle and cultured meat production at all times to 1,000 years in the future, using four synthetic meat GHG footprints currently available in the literature and three different beef production systems studied in an earlier climate modeling paper.

Cattle systems are associated with the production of all three GHGs above, including significant emissions of CH4, while cultured meat emissions are almost entirely CO2 from energy generation. Under continuous high global consumption, cultured meat results in less warming than cattle initially, but this gap narrows in the long term and in some cases cattle production causes far less warming, as CH4 emissions do not accumulate, unlike CO2. We then model a decline in meat consumption to more sustainable levels following high consumption, and show that although cattle systems generally result in greater peak warming than cultured meat, the warming effect declines and stabilizes under the new emission rates of cattle systems, while the CO2 based warming from cultured meat persists and accumulates even under reduced consumption, again overtaking cattle production in some scenarios. We conclude that cultured meat is not prima facie climatically superior to cattle; its relative impact instead depends on the availability of decarbonized energy generation and the specific production systems that are realized. 

Details of results: 

The authors pose that this study of potential warming impacts of cattle production and cultured meat is more rigorous than those previously completed. Instead of using carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) metrics, impacts are measured using carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O). This is important, as these gases differ in their initial radiative force, and how long they last in the atmosphere. Methane has a significantly higher radiative force than CO2, but only lasts in the atmosphere about 12 years, whereas CO2 lasts over millennia. Nitrous oxide has a greater initial force than CO2 or methane, and lasts approximately 100 years in the atmosphere. The authors argue that the frequently used “carbon dioxide equivalence metric, the 100-years Global Warming Potential (GWP100) equates each gas by integrating the amount of radiative forcing that a one-off emissions pulse would exert over a 100-years period” (p.2); it both fails to capture the longer term impacts of CO2 beyond 100 years, and also overestimates the impact of methane (the latter being substantial in cattle production, whereas cultured meat emits primarily CO2). Impacts on warming from land use was not included in this study. 

Four cultured meat systems (detailed in studies derived from the literature) were compared with three different cattle production systems: i) organic Swedish ranch (low input system with low methane emissions due to rapid weight gain of animals); ii) Brazilian pasture system (low input but higher methane emissions due to slower weight gain of animals), and iii) Midwest USA pasture system (high input with faster weight gain). These systems are mapped against three consumption scenarios:  
i) constant high levels of meat consumption (approximating current USA consumption); ii) same (USA) high levels of meat consumption followed by an exponential decline after 100 years; iii) more sustainable, approximating current global consumption then exponentially decreasing after 100 years.  

Overall, the two lowest emitting cultured meat systems have a lesser warming impact than the cattle systems. This advantage decreases over time, causing the authors to remark that the advantages of cultured meat are not as dramatic as would be shown in GWP100 measurements. The worst emitting cultured meat system has lower CO2 emissions at first, but performs far worse than all cattle production systems over the long term (within 200 years, the Swedish cattle system is superior, and the worst cattle system – (USA) – outperforms it at 450 years). This results from the fact that unlike CO2, CH4 emissions do not accumulate.  

The authors suggest that the timing of climate objectives need to be taken into account. At 100 years, the Swedish cattle system is the only system to outperform the highest emitting cultured meat system.  

Finally, the authors note that detailed lifecycle analysis data must be made available from cultured meat production systems. There are also uncertainties in these systems (e.g., growth media). They also stress the need for decarbonized energy generation before cultured meat systems “replace” cattle system (and that cattle systems may also benefit from decarbonization of energy generation).  

Of additional interest: 

This blog challenges the idea of high investment into cultured meat, suggesting that we need to hold meat processors more accountable: 
https://civileats.com/2021/05/05/opinion-we-dont-need-a-moonshot-for-faux-burgers-we-need-to-hold-big-meat-accountable/ 

Editor’s comments:  

The authors bring much clarity to their explanation of temporal dynamics of the different emissions impacting global warming (i.e., identifying how long different emissions last in the atmosphere).   

The information presented needs to be considered against the urgency of the climate problem (as authors discuss re: climate objectives), and the broader concept of sustainability. There is urgent need to lower our GHGe rapidly to stabilize Earth’s climate. However, as health professionals, we want to advocate for investing in sustainable systems – those that make sense in the long term. One also needs to consider other potential environmental benefits of traditional grazing in terms of increased biodiversity and carbon sequestration. This article asks us to question the logic of significant investment in/recommendations for cultured meat, unless decoupled from fossil carbon. It also asks us to consider simultaneous investment/recommendation for low-input, rapid growth cattle models (e.g., the Swedish Ranch system). 

Open access link to article: 

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fsufs.2019.00005/full 

 Conflict of interest/ Funding:  

This research was funded by the Wellcome Trust, Our Planet Our Health.  
No conflict of interests declared.  

External relevant links:  

N/A

Corresponding author: 

john.lynch@physics.ox.ac.uk