plant-based burger

How fast food restaurants can reduce their carbon footprint and reduce animal suffering


The food sector contributes massively to Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, offering plant based alternatives in fast food restaurants could be an easy way to reduce their carbon footprint.

The new Shifting the Menu report for World Animal Protection by the Institute for Sustainable Futures at UTS outlines the harmful effects of excess meat consumption on the environment and shows how much of a difference our food choices make on the environment and animals – even when ordering fast food.

Rochelle Flood, Campaign Manager, World Animal Protection said:

This report is telling us that a quick burger doesn’t have to cost the earth, with individuals able to greatly reduce their climate footprint with a plant-based patty. Unfortunately, fast-food giants KFC and McDonald’s are not giving their customers the choice, surprisingly offering zero plant-based meal items on their menus.

The food sector has a huge impact on the environment and given most of us regularly eat at fast-food outlets, these companies have a responsibility to provide their customers with permanent plant-based options. KFC and McDonald’s have a golden opportunity to step up to the plate and reduce their climate footprint, while allowing Aussies to also reduce theirs.

The report also shows that by shifting 25% of fast food beef sales to plant based alternatives, fast food restaurants could reduce carbon emissions equivalent to taking 150,000 cars off the road, save water equivalent to 5,200 Olympic swimming pools, and save land the size of 35,000 Melbourne Cricket Grounds.

Why fast food restaurants matter

Food production is one of the main contributors to climate change and is estimated at a third of all human-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Around 60% of these emissions come from meat and dairy, while only 30% come from plant based foods. The consumption of meat, especially beef, is highly resource-intensive with every kilogramme requiring larger amounts of water, land, energy, and fertilisers to produce than any other food type.

Stuart White, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Futures at UTS said:

This research confirms that there are significant environmental benefits from switching out meat options for plant-based options in our fast-food choices. Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector have received less attention than the energy sector, and yet contribute one-third of emissions if we account for the whole food chain.

Australia is one of the highest emitters compared to other countries, and we also consume more fast food, therefore we can make a bigger difference by making a simple choice when we visit a fast-food restaurant.

This research should also be of interest to fast food proprietors, they can do their bit by making more plant-based options available and promoting them.

Three-quarters of Australians over the age of 14 consume meat and animal products from fast food restaurants which mostly come from low-welfare and high-emissions farming systems.

The effects of water consumption and land used to produce beef burger patties are significantly higher than its plant based alternatives. This highlights the impact of menu options on the environment and explains the need for fast food companies to expand their plant based offerings so customers can choose more humane and environmentally sustainable options.

Fast food restaurants can make a meaningful contribution to this transition by increasing their plant based offerings, which will help us make kinder and more sustainable choices.

The effects of water consumption and land used to produce beef burger patties are significantly higher than its plant based alternatives.

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