In a bold move to shed light on the environmental toll of our food choices, German discounter PENNY has launched a very peculiar and unique campaign. For one week, they charged the “true cost” of nine products, laying bare the undeniable impact of our dietary preferences on the planet.

The results have been eye-opening. Some animal products, such as Viennese sausages, have seen an 88% price hike, while Maasdam cheese skyrocketed by 94%. In contrast, the cost of plant-based schnitzel has risen by a mere 5%. These figures aren’t arbitrary; they’ve been calculated with the Technical University of Nuremberg and the University of Greifswald. Their assessment considers the environmental impact caused by producing these foods, spanning from soil degradation to water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

The True Cost of Animal Protein

Animal agriculture is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, primarily methane and nitrous oxide, potent contributors to climate change. UN’s figures suggest that livestock farming is responsible for 14.5% of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

Producing animal protein is extremely resource-intensive. Raising and processing animals requires large quantities of feed, water, and energy, contributing to resource depletion and water scarcity issues, while the runoff from animal farms can contaminate water sources with manure and chemicals. Deforestation and habitat destruction for livestock farming can result in biodiversity loss and species endangerment. Data reveal that livestock takes up 77% of global agricultural land but produces less than 20% of the world’s supply of calories.

PENNY’s campaign isn’t about raising prices permanently; instead, it’s a wake-up call. It aims to spotlight the comprehensive environmental, social, and ethical costs of our food choices, urging consumers to rethink their dietary preferences.

The meat and dairy industries enjoy substantial government subsidies and tax breaks, which help keep their products affordable. However, as we confront the undeniable consequences of our dietary habits on the planet, it becomes increasingly evident that we must explore sustainable alternatives.

So, what can we do? Embracing alternative proteins, like the plant-based schnitzel that saw only a marginal price increase, can be a smart and ethical choice. These alternatives often have a significantly lower environmental footprint, reduce health risks, and eliminate concerns about animal welfare.

It’s time to reevaluate our relationship with animal protein and seek alternatives that are healthier for us and the planet. By making informed choices, we can reduce the true cost of animal protein and pave the way for a more sustainable and humane future.


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