Environmentally Optimal, Nutritionally Aware Beef Replacement Plant-Based Diets

Gidon Eshel*, Alon Shepon, Elad Noor, Ron Milo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Livestock farming incurs large and varied environmental burdens, dominated by beef. Replacing beef with resource efficient alternatives is thus potentially beneficial, but may conflict with nutritional considerations. Here we show that protein-equivalent plant based alternatives to the beef portion of the mean American diet are readily devisible, and offer mostly improved nutritional profile considering the full lipid profile, key vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients. We then show that replacement diets require on average only 10% of land, 4% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and 6% of reactive nitrogen (Nr) compared to what the replaced beef diet requires. Applied to 320 million Americans, the beef-to-plant shift can save 91 million cropland acres (and 770 million rangeland acres), 278 million metric ton CO2e, and 3.7 million metric ton Nr annually. These nationwide savings are 27%, 4%, and 32% of the respective national environmental burdens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8164-8168
Number of pages5
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number15
StatePublished - 2 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes


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