Multiple factors need to be considered before plant-based foods are deemed sustainable

With more than $1.4 billion invested in alternative protein companies during the first half of 2020, it’s fair to say that plant-based foods—from cell-cultured meat to mock seafood—are staking a bigger claim on supermarket shelves worldwide. “As ethical and eco-based considerations continue to drive demand, it’s important to consider what “sustainability” really means. It’s not enough to compare the resource use of plant versus animal farming. “That question of sustainability has to be asked in a much wider context,” Élisabeth Abergel, a professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal, told Canada’s National Observer. “Are these [soybeans and peas] grown organically or are they grown in monocultures? Are they part of the same supply chain … used for feeding cattle?” Crop pricing, industrial ag pollution, and working conditions are a few of the other considerations to weigh when it comes to buying plant-based. Bottom line: dig deeper.