Nutritional & Environmental Comparison of Chicken Meat and Alternative Proteins

Integrity Ag and Environment Pty Ltd

  • Project code: PRJ-012273

  • Project stage: Closed

  • Project start date: Thursday, January 16, 2020

  • Project completion date: Thursday, December 16, 2021

  • National Priority: CME-Priority 1-Improving environmental sustainability outcomes


The marketing and consumption of vegetarian, vegan and reduced meat diets is rapidly increasing. According to the Good Food Institute, sales of plant-based alternatives to meat (PBAs) grew 31% in the USA in the past two years, compared to total growth in retail food of 4% over the same period. In Australia, surveys show a substantial increase in the number of consumers identifying as vegetarian and vegan in the past 5 years. In the food market, PBAs and cultured meat companies are actively competing with traditional meat, using environmental credentials as a major point of difference. However, most comparisons have been done with beef, and the majority of studies were conducted overseas, where the environmental impact of PBA manufacturing are expected to be lower than in Australia. Our research shows Australian chicken meat has relatively low environmental impacts (PRJ 7445) compared to other meat products. Moreover, product comparisons must take into account nutritional factors, but this is often not done, as shown by the high-profile study in Lancet, which compared chicken with dry soybean, and recommended an 80% lower chicken intake than the Australian average. These knowledge gaps raise the possibility the domestic market is misinformed about the environmental and nutritional benefits of PBAs compared to chicken. This project will address knowledge gaps by (1) determining the nutritional comparability of chicken meat to common PBAs and cultured meat via a literature review, and (2) by conducting a scoping analysis to investigate the environmental impacts of the alternative food stuffs.


Chicken Meat

Research Organisation

Integrity Ag and Environment Pty Ltd

Objective Summary

The project outcome is a confidential report for AgriFutures that provides a robust comparison of Australian chicken meat and PBAs, based on a critical review of the literature and a scoping life cycle assessment (LCA) comparing Australian chicken meat with PBAs available on the supermarket shelf. Additionally, we will investigate the emerging literature around cultured meats as the ‘next horizon’ issue in this space.
Specific objectives of this project are:
1. Conduct a critical literature review of environmental impacts and nutritional value of PBAs and cultured meats, assessing impacts from plant production and key additives, manufacturing (including the impact of the country of manufacture and transport on energy use and emissions), nutrition profile, and the comprehensiveness and representativeness of the analysis.
2. Determine requirements for a ‘like-for-like’ comparison of environmental impacts between chicken meat and up to four common PBAs and a cultured meat product, based on Australian chicken meat LCA results, and the literature. The like-for-like comparison will use portions that balance nutrition and culinary requirements and will investigate assessment methods required to ensure equivalent supply chain attributes for products sold in the Australian market.
3. Conduct a preliminary LCA scoping study comparing PBAs and cultured meat to Australian chicken meat using readily available datasets, augmenting the literature review by enabling sensitivity analysis and uncertainty analysis.
4. (Subject to stop/go) Conduct a full scale LCA analysis of Australian chicken meat and up to four PBAs using comparable methods, suitable for public release.