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Plant-based burgers aren’t a health food. That’s a good thing

It’s been a few years since the Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat burgers began showing up in grocery stores and restaurants. Despite their popularity, critics note that high-tech meat alternatives don’t exactly deserve a health halo. Perhaps in response, Impossible Foods released its 2.0 version in 2019, with 36% less sodium and 43% less saturated fat. Late last year, Beyond Meat announced its plans to debut a newer, leaner patty with less saturated fat as well.

This seems like a good thing—companies making their products healthier is always a step in the right direction, isn’t it?

Not in this case. The reality is that we’re a decade away from the point of no return in the fight against climate change, and industrial animal agriculture is partially responsible for that. Meat production—from the clearing of land and trees to the transportation of these products—accounts for between 14.5% and 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Researchers have concluded that without significantly changing our diet it will be impossible to mitigate the environmental devastation.

And that’s the rub: While most people know overconsumption of meat is directly linked to diseases such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and certain kinds of cancers, they’re still eating it in record amounts. The USDA predicted that 2020 will be yet another year where more meat was consumed per person than ever before (the exact totals are still being tallied).

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