The “Cow” In the Room No One Talks About…Plant-based Diets in Pakistan!

Shahmeer Mohsin
3 min readMay 17, 2021

Plant-based diets — although not widespread yet — are becoming more and more common in the west. Plant-based milk, butter, patties, etc are not that hard to find in developed western economies. Similarly, vegetarian and vegan restaurants are not too hard to find in developed western countries. Different people have different reasons for adopting a plant-based diet in the west; for some, it’s ethical reasons while for others, it’s environmental reasons.

Even in Pakistan, meatless food consumption is on the rise. According to a report by Euromonitor, Pakistan is the world’s second-fastest-growing vegetarian country. While rising vegetarianism in the west could be attributed to animal welfare, and environmental reasons, in Pakistan, inflation seems to be the major driver of reduced meat-dependent diets. Apparently, most Pakistanis adopting such diets are not doing so out of free will but are being forced to adopt these diets because of rising inflation. Having said that, Pakistanis should realize that meat consumption is a major driver of anthropogenic climate change, so even those who can afford meat should ponder reducing or eliminating meat consumption.

When the word, “climate change” is used, chances are that you visualize toxic gas emission from factories, oil extraction, emissions from urban transport, or something having to do with fossil fuels.

Emissions from agriculture — animal agriculture in particular — are often undermined in the discussions on climate change. The reality is that animal agriculture is responsible for more emissions than the transportation sector (all aviation, shipping, and land transport included). According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN), animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions whereas the transportation sector accounts for 14% of the emissions.

Cow belching and flatulence aren’t the only reasons that make animal agriculture environmentally unsustainable; there are many other reasons as well.

Animal husbandry requires extensive land use. According to the UN, 26% percent of the planet’s ice-free land is used for livestock grazing. A lot of deforestation is done to acquire more land for livestock grazing. Thus, it isn’t surprising that cattle ranching enterprises now occupy nearly 75 percent of the deforested areas of the Amazon rainforest.

The animal husbandry sector is quite water-intensive. It takes roughly 2500 liters of water to produce one beef patty — enough to fill many bathtubs. One of the reasons for such extravagant use of water in animal husbandry is that the crops fed to the animals require large amounts of water. Also, the farm animals themselves drink a lot of water.

Although the demand for meatless diets is on the rise in Pakistan due to economic reasons, the demand can get a further boost if people who can afford meat adopt meatless diets for environmental reasons. This could spike the demand for plant-based foods in the country even further, which will be a win-win for the environment and sustainable entrepreneurship in the country. The sustainable food sector — vegetarian restaurants, sustainable urban farms, bio grocery shops, etc — provides a good opportunity to aspiring Pakistani entrepreneurs because it is an untapped market in the country.



Shahmeer Mohsin

I am a sustainability engineer, currently residing in Paris. I have worked at General Electric, and the International Energy Agency in their Paris offices.