The environmental impact, ingredient composition, nutritional and health impact of meat alternatives: a systematic review

Leona Lindberg*, Rachel Reid McCann, Beatrice Smyth, Jayne V. Woodside, Anne P. Nugent

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Abstract

Background
The promotion of dietary shifts towards reduced meat consumption and increased plant protein consumption, has resulted in increased availability and consumption of meat alternatives which are products made from non-meat proteins to replicate the organoleptic and functional properties of meat. However, a knowledge gap exists on the impact of the production and consumption of these products on the environment and human health.

Scope and approach
This systematic review aims to address this research gap by evaluating the literature on the ingredient composition, environmental, nutritional and health impact of meat alternatives compared to meat. Five databases, reference lists and web alerts were searched to identify articles published from 2011 to 2023. 54 articles were included in this systematic review.

Key findings and conclusions
Meat alternatives have a lower environmental impact than beef and pork and similar impact to chicken. Compared to meat, meat alternatives contain more ingredients, allergens and food additives. Overall, meat alternatives had lower contents of total and saturated fat, zinc and vitamin B12, and higher contents of carbohydrates, sugars, dietary fibre, salt/sodium, iron and calcium than comparable meat products. Protein contents were comparable or lower for meat alternatives depending on the category. A limited number of single test meal studies and short-term trials investigated the impact of meat alternative consumption on health outcomes, with no adverse effects observed. Further research examining the impact of meat alternative consumption on health outcomes is needed to better understand the role of these foods (if any) in healthy and sustainable dietary patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104483
Number of pages19
JournalTrends in Food Science and Technology
Volume149
Early online date21 May 2024
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online date - 21 May 2024

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