Iowa schools exploring meat alternatives

Photo from Pixabay

Tyler Chalfant | January 9th, 2020

Schools in Benton County, Iowa experimented with plant-based meat alternatives on Wednesday. The meat production industry produces the majority of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, and scientists have said that cutting back on meat consumption is the single biggest way an individual can reduce their environmental impact.

A 2018 study found that 83% of all farmland is used for livestock, while animal products make up only 18% of total calories. Beef is one of the worst contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, releasing 105 kg for every 100 g of protein. In contrast, tofu produces less than 3.5 kg for the same amount of protein. 

The plant-based initiative is a part of Vinton-Shellsburg High School’s Farm to School program, along with the Green Iowa Americorps effort to promote sustainable schools. Green Iowa Energy Efficiency Coordinator noted that opposing meat was not likely to be a popular stance in Iowa. However, limiting the meat in one’s diet can make a difference. 

The program is focused on promoting student health, as Iowa ranks 13th out of all the states in childhood obesity. Nutritionists have repeatedly found plant-based diets to be the healthiest options, while red and processed meats have been linked to increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. 

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