by Maggie Cornelius and Gary Schnitkey, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois

The emerging plant-based meat industry has the potential to change farmland allocation in U.S. agriculture. Plant-based meat companies such as Impossible Burger aim to capture market from the livestock industry, not only for profits but also to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and natural resource use. Farmland is one natural resource that plant-based meat purports to save, if consumers substitute regular meat for plant-based meat.

In response to this market capture, livestock farmers would cut herd sizes, reducing demand for livestock feed, which would reduce demand for crops used for livestock feed such as corn and soybean. But exactly how much farmland could be freed up by a switch to plant-based meat?

This article estimates farmland use associated with beef, pork, poultry, and soy food production, and it finds that pound-for-pound beef takes 14.2 times more farmland to produce than plant-based meat; pork takes 1.7 times more farmland; chicken takes slightly less farmland than plant-based meat; and plant-based meat is the most land-efficient way to deliver soy protein compared with other soy foods.

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