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The Vegan Food Boom is Good for People, Planet and Profit

By 3p Contributor

By Anna Johansson

Most people think of veganism as a highly-debated personal issue, one related to health and nutrition, but few outside the vegan community stop to think about how such a diet impacts our environment.

For vegan-centered businesses, however, our food choices aren’t just about physical health; they're about global sustainability and long-term economic health. It goes far beyond changing the way we eat, but rather is a statement about how we treat our planet and what kind of future we hope to have and intend to create.

Nutrition facts: Protein and profits

When people talk about veganism, the first question most people ask is: But where do you get your protein? Due to a lack of nutrition education, many Americans think that the only way to get protein is through meat products, and many even over-consume meat products, believing it’s necessary for their health when it’s, in fact, bad for their bodies and the environment.

In fact, vegetarians and vegans can get their protein from many non-meat sources, including soy, nuts and nut butters, peas, seeds and even whole grains. Grains like quinoa are actually very high in protein, as are peas. Meat eaters are often surprised to hear that these foods they think of as poor sources of protein can boast more protein than an equivalent serving of meat.

With this in mind, then, companies are rapidly centering alternative protein sources in their business plans. Ruoquette, a French company, is in the process of bringing the world’s largest pea protein factory to Canada. And in the U.S., plant-based foods contribute $13.7 billion to the economy. And because of its complexity and status as a near-complete protein, pea protein alone is expected to be an $18.5 million industry by 2021.

Our health, our earth

Health food, in the broadest sense, has become a viable, mainstream marketing point rather than just a niche market, and vegan protein sources are a key example of this. In part, this is because of an increase in health issues. The risks of things like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some kinds of cancer can be reduced by a vegan diet.

In this day and age, however, it’s not just our health we should be worried about. Rather, we need to consider how what we eat impacts the health of the earth and this kind of ethical appeal works well for vegan-centered companies.

Simply put, a vegan diet has a much smaller carbon footprint than diets that include meat and animal products. In 2017, if everyone across the globe switched to a plant-based diet, we could reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to food-production by 70 percent by 2050. That’s an enormous reduction.

Looked at more carefully, there’s an even more intimate link between our health and the health of our earth because of the implications of global warming.

When 80 percent of food-production greenhouses gases are related to meat production, evidence suggests veganism may be the only answer.

Waste not

In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a vegan diet has other environmental benefits that could decrease resource scarcity around the world – but only if changes are made on a corporate, rather than individual, scale.

A quick look at resources needed to produce a cup of beef versus a cup of kidney beans makes it clear why. From land and water to fertilizer and fuel, it takes fewer resources to grow the kidney beans and they’re better for you. Considering the scarcity of potable water, the amount of land devoted to animal agriculture, and the damages done by fossil fuels, why wouldn’t we want to reduce our use of these critical resources?

It’s within reach

Finally, it’s important to put to bed the fiction that vegan diets are not attainable for many people, particularly those living on limited incomes. Let’s take, as an example, the fact that veganism and vegetarianism are practiced most widely in the developing world.

Even among those who don’t identify with this particular dietary practice, meat tends to be a relatively minor part of people’s daily diets – it’s expensive and ultimately out of reach, saved for celebrations or when guests are invited. It isn’t a staple in the way it is in the United States. And the more popular plant-based diets become, the less expensive basic meat alternatives will become.

Animal agriculture is the enemy of the environment and the enemy of our health, but it has distinct advantages for today’s food businesses. As advocates for the earth, then, it’s time to push for a vegan revolution. High-end restaurants are catching on, vegan “butchers” are opening, and your local grocery increasingly stocks vegan alternatives.

Now, more businesses need to step up and support this change.

Image credit: Pexels

Anna is a freelance writer, researcher, and business consultant. A columnist for Entrepreneur.com, HuffingtonPost.com and more, Anna specializes in entrepreneurship, technology, and social media trends. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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