Forum: A lot going for plant-based food; now to get people to switch to it

I applaud Singapore's efforts to be sustainable in food production, after the country's first fully automated large-scale production line for plant-based protein products was launched on Wednesday in Woodlands (Plant-based food products get boost with new large-scale production line, Nov 25).

Switching from animal-based to plant-based foods can reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

Rearing livestock accounts for 14.5 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, one reason being that methane, which has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide, is produced.

Research also shows that beef production needs 160 times more land space compared with growing crops such as potatoes.

Plant-based food companies can help to maximise Singapore's limited space for food production. And we can reduce our reliance on imported food as well.

One key challenge, however, is to ensure that these efforts do not go to waste. Not all Singaporeans are accustomed to the cost and taste of plant-based proteins yet.

While $8 for two servings of plant protein is costly, especially for the lower-income here, I hope that demand for plant-based protein will grow over time, which would lead to retail prices falling over time due to economies of scale as companies ramp up production to meet the higher demand.

For example, earlier this year, Impossible Foods lowered its international prices by double digits for distributors in countries including Singapore, noting that its growth had enabled it to achieve economies of scale.

But the most important question remains: How can more of us get used to the taste of plant-based proteins?

A good way is to adjust our expectations and keep an adventurous and open mind to the taste of these foods, instead of expecting meat alternatives to taste exactly like meat.

For those less adventurous, perhaps a good start would be to try out meat alternatives (for example, Growthwell Foods' chickpea-based nuggets) as a snack first, before switching to using plant-based protein products as a side or main dish.

The new facility, owned by Growthwell Foods, will be able to produce 4,000 tonnes of plant-based products in a single year, enough to provide the protein intakes of more than 100,000 people for a year.

While this is not enough to feed all of Singapore, it is indeed a good start to encourage more people to switch to a less-meat or meatless diet.

Brenda Khoo Yu Qing