Environmental science: Why the shift towards plant-based diets is a privilege of developed countries

The transition to plant-based diets in industrialised countries is impacted by socioeconomic, cultural, and infrastructure considerations, making such diets more accessible than in underdeveloped countries. Higher salaries and improved food security in industrialised countries enable individuals to afford a wide range of plant-based diets, including organic produce and animal substitutes. Well-stocked supermarkets, global supply chains, and cutting-edge food technology offer a year-round supply of different plant-based alternatives. Higher education and public health campaigns help to improve awareness about the health and environmental benefits of plant-based diets. Cultural trends, ethical issues, and infrastructure support, such as eateries that offer plant-based options, as well as government legislation, all contribute to the dietary transition.

In contrast, developing countries confront major challenges to implementing plant-based diets. Economic restrictions prioritise affordable, calorie-dense animal-derived meals, which are critical for achieving basic nutritional requirements. Limited availability to a diverse range of plant-based foods, as well as a lack of investment in food technology, exacerbate the problem. Traditional meals are heavy on animal items, making cultural transitions difficult. The benefits of plant-based diets are less well understood, and food security takes precedence over dietary diversity or sustainability. Infrastructural challenges limit the availability and affordability of fresh plant-based foods, and nutritional demands are frequently satisfied by animal products that contain vital nutrients.

As a result, the move to plant-based diets is more popular in developed countries due to economic affordability, access to different foods, education, cultural trends, and supportive infrastructure, whereas developing countries face these challenges. This gap emphasises the role of privilege in food choices, since developed countries are better positioned to prioritise health and environmental sustainability. Addressing these gaps necessitates initiatives to improve economic conditions, increase food security, and raise awareness and availability of plant-based options in developing nations, ensuring that the benefits of plant-based diets are realised worldwide.