Impact of Plant-Based Meat Alternatives on Cattle Inventories and Greenhouse Gas Emissions
23 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2021
Date Written: November 11, 2021
New plant-based meat alternatives that aim to mimic the taste and texture of beef could have significant economic, environmental, and animal welfare impacts if they replace animal-based meats and reduce livestock production. Whether plant-based meat alternatives can achieve these ends depends on the extent to which consumers are willing to substitute for plant-based meat alternatives, the structure of the meat industry, and the inter-linkages of the livestock industry with the other parts of the economy. We construct and calibrate an economic model to estimate how a reduction in plant-based meat prices, or increases in demand for plant-based meat, in the United States affect cattle production. For every 10% reduction in price or increase in demand for plant-based meat alternatives, we estimate U.S. cattle production falls approximately 0.15%, U.S. cattle producers’ economic welfare falls by $300 million/year, and U.S. consumer welfare rises by $513 million/year. Increases in U.S. demand for plant-based meat alter trade patterns, leading to a reduction of beef imports and an increase in beef exports, a phenomenon that further reduces global greenhouse gas emissions and land use given the relative efficiency of U.S. beef production. For every 10% reduction in the price of plant-based meat alternatives, we estimate that the global reduction in emissions is equivalent to 0.41% of U.S. emissions from beef production and 1.4 % when including carbon sequestration from reforestation of abandoned cropland and pasture and reduced land-use change emissions.1 Even substantial reductions in prices of plant-based meat alternatives are unlikely to have substantive impacts on the U.S. cattle population and emissions, suggesting the need to also pursue alternative mitigation strategies, such as innovations to reduce the methane emissions per head.
Keywords: plant-based meat, beef, environmental, economy
JEL Classification: Q11,Q16,Q17
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation