The carbon footprint of this vegan meat is 130 times lower than that of beef

Seitan, a vegan alternative to meat, has a carbon footprint 130 times lower than beef, according to analysis published today by London-based company Thrust Carbon. Compiled on behalf of the UK’s leading seitan producer, LoveSeitan, the analysis shows that while 100 kilograms of seitan produce 46.6 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions, the same amount of beef produces 6,000 kilograms of CO2e.

“This analysis provides a great example of why seitan is so much better for the environment than animal products. Our seitan is higher in protein, lower in fat and 130 times more sustainable than beef,” said LoveSeitan co-founder Steve Swindon. “We expect this new data to make people think twice about choosing beef, lamb, chicken or cheese for their next meal. Of course, we recommend seitan as the perfect alternative: it’s healthier and has a minimal carbon footprint in comparison.

In addition to beef, the analysis looked at other meat products to find that 100 kilograms of lamb and chicken produced 2,400 kilograms and 600 kilograms of CO2e emissions, respectively. Although cheese’s carbon footprint is often overlooked, this analysis also revealed that 100 kilograms of dairy produce 2,100 kilograms of CO2e emissions. In addition to seitan, tofu also had a relatively small footprint, with 100 kilograms of soy product contributing 300 kilograms of CO2e emissions.

“If you really care about climate change and carbon emissions, remember you can have 130 seitan burgers for the same carbon footprint as a beef burger,” Swindon said. “Let this one sink in a bit.”

What is seitan?

Seitan is made from wheat gluten (the main protein found in wheat) which is washed to create a fibrous paste that replaces meat. Stretchy dough absorbs marinades and can be cooked using the same methods applied to meat such as grilling, sautéing, smoking and oven roasting.

While Chinese cultures have consumed wheat gluten for centuries, the term “seitan” was first coined in 1961 in Japan by George Ohsawa, the founder of the macrobiotic diet that introduced the versatile vegan meat to the West in the 1960s. World Seitan Day will be celebrated in honor of eco-friendly vegan meat on October 18, 2021, Ohsawa’s birthday.


Environmentally friendly vegan meats

In addition to seitan and tofu, branded vegan meats are also more environmentally friendly than their animal-based counterparts. As for the Beyond Burger, a life cycle assessment (LCA) conducted by the University of Michigan compared the environmental impact of the plant-based burger to a quarter-pound beef burger and found that the Beyond Burger used 99 percent less water, 93 percent less land and 43 percent less energy while emitting 90 percent less greenhouse gases than its animal-based counterpart.


Similarly, Impossible Foods – which recently welcomed Paris Climate Accord architect Christiana Figueres to its board – shared that its plant-based Impossible Burger uses 96% less land, 87% less water and emits 89% less greenhouse gases than conventional beef from cows.

Given the low carbon footprint of vegan meat alternatives, educational institutions around the world are ditching beef to save the planet, including the London School of Economics and Political Science, University of Cambridge, University of East Anglia, University of London silversmiths and Portugal. University of Coimbra.

Photo credit: Love Seitan

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