Welcome to the Plant-Based Diet Initiative!

Our new Stanford-led Plant-Based Diet Initiative (PBDI) was made possible by a generous gift from Beyond Meat and looks to reap the positive benefits a more plant-based, less animal-based diet has on both individuals and the environment.

In recent years, environmentalists, nutritionists, and public health advocates have all championed a more plant-based, less animal-based diet in order to realize the positive benefits this diet has on both individuals and the environment. It is no secret that the typical U.S. diet, which is comprised of an abundance of beef and dairy products, has a significantly large adverse environmental impact. Due to their heavy reliance on converting crops to a feed, and their ruminant production of methane, meat products such as beef and lamb have the highest carbon footprint per unit of protein produced. In contrast, plant food and poultry have the lowest carbon footprint, with carbon emissions from plant sources being 7.5 times lower than carbon emissions from beef.

Having more of the general population shift to a more plant-based diet would not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide but also free up U.S. farmland, much of which is currently dedicated to production for livestock feed. Alternatively, this same land could produce more vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds, all components of a diet that is not only better for the environment but also healthier for human consumption. Studies have shown that plant-based Mediterranean, pescatarian, and vegetarian diets are all associated with lower rates of type II diabetes, cancer, coronary mortality, and total mortality.

Finally, the need to incorporate less meat in the daily American diet may become increasingly crucial amid the current pandemic, and likely long after it passes. COVID-19, which has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths across the world, has disproportionately affected those working in the meatpacking industry, who–due to the tight quarters, low temperatures, and high-stress environments of the processing plants themselves—have proven to be vulnerable to higher than average rates of infection. According to a recent report released by the CDC in July, over 16,000 plant workers in 23 states had tested positive for the virus, forcing dozens of plants to temporarily halt operations. It is likely that future operations will require decreased line speeds and lower production amounts to ensure human safety.