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Choosing mushrooms over beef can reduce deforestation by 50 percent

How did mushrooms end up on the center stage of the food world? The mushrooms – beloved by chefs, including chef Derek Sarno, who describes them as “wickedly good” – have wiggled their way into every corner of the culinary world, proven to not only excite the taste buds, but also reduce the risk of depression and boost immunity. long list of reasons to love mushrooms, a recent study just found that mushrooms could be the key to protecting the world from deforestation.

Published in the scientific journal Natureresearchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) concluded that replacing 20 percent of conventionally produced beef with microbial-based alternatives could reduce deforestation by 50 percent by the year 2050. The ground-breaking study suggests that by promoting microbial fermentation methods -based meat such as mycoprotein (mushroom-based protein) can significantly curb the harmful effects of the animal breeding industry worldwide.

The German and Swedish researchers are investigating how microbial fermentation could cut into the existing meat industries using computer modelling. The study decided to record how this innovative food technology could help the planet until 2050, which is when experts predict the world’s population will exceed 10 billion.

“The food system is at the root of a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, with ruminant meat production being the largest single source,” study lead author Florian Humpenöder said in a statement. “The replacement of ruminant meat with microbial protein in the future could significantly reduce the greenhouse gas footprint of the food system.”

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Microbial fermentation is a process that uses microbes from sources such as fungi to replicate the structure of coprotein. The microbes are fed sugar and fermented in the same way as bread or beer. This process creates proteins that can be used to produce nearly identical plant-based meat products. This process requires far less land and water and emits significantly fewer greenhouse gases. The study estimates that 56 percent less net carbon dioxide emissions are produced from this land use change.

“Biotechnology offers a promising toolbox for a range of land-related challenges from preserving ecosystems through improving food security,” PIK study co-author Alexander Popp, who also leads PIK’s Land Use Management Group, said in a statement. “Alternatives to animal proteins, including substitutes for dairy products, can greatly benefit animal welfare, save water and avert pressure from carbon-rich and biodiverse ecosystems.”

Cutting meat to save the planet

Last November, 105 countries signed a pledge at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) that aims to halt deforestation by 2030. Looking at the animal agriculture sector, the world’s leading governments are planning to restructure food systems to prevent further environmental destruction. The pledge also emphasized that the countries would work together to promote replanting efforts. This new study provides a clear solution to help these governments achieve this sustainability goal.

The study also emphasizes that by cutting reliance on beef production, the world can significantly reduce cow-related methane and other greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, meat production produces 57 percent of the world’s food industry emissions. At COP26, eight countries came together to reduce methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

The PIK study suggests that microbial protein, or mycoprotein, will help the planet reach its promised sustainability goals over the next few decades. With greater access to plant-based protein, consumers will be more likely to try sustainable options. To stop climate change and correct ongoing environmental damage, the US and the EU must cut meat consumption by 75 percent by introducing sustainable alternatives such as mycoprotein.

Mycoprotein is the future of food

Chef Sarno is not alone in his enthusiasm for mushrooms and mycoprotein. His brand, Wicked Kitchen, is one of several plant-based meat brands that highlight the benefits and versatility of mushroom-based proteins. Companies including The Better Meat Co, MyForest Foods and Meati have developed whole cuts of “meat” from mycelium and mycoprotein. These companies all use biomass fermentation and create plant-based meat products that aim to appeal to both meat eaters and vegans.

“The good news is that people don’t have to be afraid that they can only eat greens in the future,” said Humpenöder. “They can continue to eat burgers and the like, it’s just that those burger patties are produced in a different way.”

Companies worldwide have turned to mycoprotein because of its minimal environmental footprint and its nutritional density. The plant-based protein will allow consumers to enjoy their favorite foods without harming the planet or animals. In December, Quorn released a new line of mycoprotein-based chicken products, including Southern Fried Wings, Garlic Herb Bites, Creamy Korma Bites, Sweet Chilli Mini Filet and Jerk Mini Filet. Quorn’s mycoprotein is extremely sustainable to grow, it typically takes less than 24 hours to produce the mycelium protein in a fermenter and subsequently harvest it.

For more on sustainability, visit The Beet’s Environmental News.

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