Saget, Sophie; Porto Costa, Marcela; Williams, Michael; Styles, David
A “Great Food Transformation” is required to mitigate the large negative environmental and health consequences of the current food system. In developed countries, these issues stem from the over-consumption of energy-rich, nutrient-poor foods and animal-based products, and the under-consumption of healthy, nutrient-dense foods. In addition, the European food ecosystem heavily relies on the importation of soy from South America, which is a direct cause of deforestation and biodiversity loss, and is a missed opportunity for Europe to benefit from the agroecological advantages brought by local cultivation of legumes. We investigated, through a consequential LCA, the potential environmental effects of increased legume production and consumption at a European scale, considering diet change and substitution of animal protein and South American soy imported to Europe, for a series of products in diet change scenarios. The environmental impacts were assessed across the sixteen Product Environmental Footprint-recommended categories. Our scenarios comprise of innovative legume-based products that mimic a popular alternative to facilitate consumer regime shift. These include a substitution of wheat-based gin, barley beer, wheat pasta, beef meatballs, beef burger patties, and egg mayonnaise with pea gin, faba bean beer, chickpea pasta, pea protein balls, soy and pea burger patties, and aquafaba (chickpea cooking water) mayonnaise. Life cycle inventory data for these products were extracted from existing peer-reviewed international publications. This study informs decision-makers about direct and indirect effects of such a diet change, providing insights to achieve a sustainable transition to increased legume cultivation and consumption across Europe.