Ever find it puzzling by the coexistence of worldwide hunger and excessive food waste?

As we strive to develop more responsible and eco-friendly food production practices, one solution is emerging as a frontrunner- plant proteins. These versatile and nutritious alternatives not only offer a sustainable source of nutrition but also play a crucial role in minimising food waste. In this blog post, we will explore the relationship between plant proteins and the reduction of food waste, highlighting the positive impact these alternatives are making on both our health and the health of our planet.

Food Waste and Environment Violation

Did you know that according to Earth.Org, one-third of all produced food goes to waste? This staggering quantity could potentially provide nourishment for 3 billion people.

In a world grappling with hunger, the reality of a huge amount of all-produced food being discarded annually presents a dual threat- exacerbating food insecurity and inflicting severe damage on the environment. With food waste accounting for one-third of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, it emerges as a significant driver of climate change, releasing methane- a potent greenhouse gas. Moreover, the impact includes land degradation and harm to biodiversity, as arable landscapes are converted into pastures, disrupting natural habitats and food chains. As highlighted in the UN Environment Programme GEO-6 report, addressing food waste is crucial in transforming our food system and preserving a thriving planet. Joining the movement to combat food waste is not just an environmental imperative but a vital step toward ensuring a sustainable and equitable future.

The Rise of Plant Proteins

Traditional diets often center around animal-based proteins, contributing to concerns related to deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, and ethical treatment of animals. However, the shift toward plant-based diets has gained momentum, fueled by a growing awareness of the environmental and health benefits associated with consuming plant proteins.
Plant proteins, derived from sources such as legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains, offer a sustainable and cruelty-free alternative to animal proteins. These plant-based sources require fewer natural resources, produce lower greenhouse gas emissions, and have a reduced environmental footprint compared to their animal counterparts. Additionally, the cultivation of plant proteins supports biodiversity and helps conserve ecosystems, making them a crucial component of sustainable food systems.

Eat Green, Live Well: Plant Protein Consumption

In recent years, a notable shift has occurred in dietary preferences, marked by an increasing embrace of plant-based protein consumption driven by concerns related to sustainability, health, and ethics. The 2022 FAO report underscores this trend, revealing a heightened adoption of plant-based diets, including vegetarian, vegan, and flexitarian approaches. Individuals are recognizing the dual benefits for personal health and the environment, with health-conscious consumers particularly drawn to plant proteins for their nutritional advantages, including lower saturated fat and cholesterol content.

Moreover, the efficiency of plant-based diets stands out in comparison to the traditional livestock supply chain. Unlike animal agriculture, where substantial portions of crops are diverted as feed, plant proteins offer a more direct and resource-efficient approach to meeting dietary needs. This inherent efficiency aligns with broader societal shifts towards sustainability, making plant-based diets an increasingly attractive option for environmentally conscious consumers. In essence, the move towards plant-based protein consumption not only promotes individual health but also reflects a more resource-conscious and sustainable approach to food consumption.

Minimising Food Waste Through Plant Proteins

One of the key advantages of plant proteins in the battle against food waste lies in their versatility and shelf life. Unlike some animal products that require strict storage conditions, many plant proteins are resilient and can withstand variations in temperature and humidity. This resilience translates into less food spoilage and waste along the supply chain.

Extended Shelf- Life

Plant-based protein sources often have a longer shelf life than perishable animal products. Grains, legumes, and certain plant-based protein products are less prone to spoilage, reducing the likelihood of products reaching their expiration dates before consumption. This extended shelf life contributes to less food being discarded due to spoilage at both the retail and consumer levels.

Some plant proteins, such as those from legumes and pulses, have inherent antimicrobial properties that can help inhibit the growth of spoilage and pathogenic microorganisms. This can contribute to extending the shelf life of products.

Incorporating plant proteins into food formulations can sometimes enable the use of alternative packaging and preservation techniques. For example, certain plant proteins may interact favourably with packaging materials or allow for modified atmosphere packaging, contributing to longer shelf life.

An interesting example of how plant protein influences shelf life is evident in dried beans and lentils. When stored in airtight containers under optimal conditions, these legumes can last indefinitely without spoiling. They maintain their protein and mineral value over time, although some vitamin properties may diminish after two years. Storing beans in a pantry or airtight containers, such as mason jars, keeps them fresh for up to 3 years while freezing allows them to last indefinitely. To counter moisture loss after 2 years, longer cooking times are needed, and adding ¼ teaspoon of baking soda per 500 grams of beans can help soften them.

Innovative Plant-Protein Products

The food industry’s response to the demand for plant-based options has led to the creation of innovative and sustainable plant protein products. These alternatives, such as plant-based burgers and sausages, not only offer consumers more choices but also contribute to reducing food waste. By providing convenient and appealing plant-based options, consumers are more likely to choose products with longer shelf lives and fewer spoilage concerns.

Advances in processing technologies for plant proteins, such as extrusion and microencapsulation, can enhance their stability and functionality. This, in turn, may contribute to the development of products with longer shelf lives.

Utilisation of By-Products

The production of plant-based proteins often results in valuable by-products that can be repurposed to minimise waste. For example, soybean processing generates by-products like okara, a nutrient-rich pulp that can be used in various food applications. By finding innovative ways to utilise these products, the food industry can maximise the value of plant protein production and contribute to a more circular and sustainable economy.

Reduced Losses in Harvesting and Processing

The cultivation of plant proteins generally involves fewer losses during harvesting and processing compared to animal agriculture. Plants can be harvested more efficiently, and their processing methods often lead to fewer losses along the production chain. This efficiency helps minimise waste at the early stages of food production, contributing to a more sustainable and resource-efficient system.


As we confront the hurdles of building a food system that is both sustainable and resilient, plant proteins are rising as a source of optimism. Their ability to provide a nutritious and environmentally friendly alternative to animal proteins is not only beneficial for human health but also plays a crucial role in minimising food waste. By choosing plant-based options and supporting the development of innovative plant protein products, we can contribute to a more sustainable and waste-conscious food industry. The power to make a positive impact on our planet lies in the choices we make every day, and embracing plant proteins is a delicious and sustainable step towards a healthier future for both ourselves and the Earth. Planning meals, buying only what you need, and properly storing perishable items are essential to minimising food waste. Leftovers can be creatively repurposed into new meals or frozen for later use.

The VALPRO Path project seeks to identify gaps in the plant protein landscape, promoting those environmental, social, health, and economic benefits while transforming consumer attitudes, and trying to emphasise the dangers of food waste.

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