The renewables-obsessed king of flat-pack furniture, IKEA, has announced plans to offer vegetarian patrons something new to distract themselves with after they’ve experienced the overwhelming rage and despair that sets in while shopping at IKEA on a weekend afternoon (pro tip: unless you’re a total masochist, don’t subject yourself to IKEA on a weekend afternoon):

Meat-free Swedish meatballs.

For many, sitting down in the retailer’s in-house cafeteria to unwind with — or fuel up on — a plate of scrumptious Swedish meatballs is part of the overall IKEA shopping experience. As reported by The Telegraph, an estimated 150 million meatballs are sold annually in IKEA cafes alone. And for those who just want to get the hell with what dignity they have left, there’s always the frozen to-go bags conveniently placed in cases right next to the front registers and the right-by-the-exit bistro.

But given the retailer’s aggressive emphasis on trimming its carbon footprint and conquering climate change from all angles, the meatballs, made from a horse pork and beef mix, present a problem: due to the “farming process” and the methane gas emissions from cattle combined with the sheer volume of meatballs sold, producing the meaty morsels winds up being a hugely greenhouse gas-intensive process.

Says Joanna Yarrow, head of sustainability for IKEA UK, speaking at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in London earlier this week:

We are aware of the meat issue with greenhouse gase. We are looking at all our food products from a sustainability perspective but specifically meatballs. They are very popular and they are also our most carbon-intensive food item on our menu. We have been working with WWF looking at meatballs and other food items we sell and looking at how we can tweak our recipes to give great taste but also perhaps less of an environmental impact.

Not to worry traditional IKEA meatball lovers: the beloved pork and beef meatballs aren’t going anywhere; they’ll just be joined by “lower carbon alternatives.” Confirms a spokesperson for the retailer: “A chicken meatball and a veggie ball are under development and will complement our meatball offer next year.”

In 2013, the carbon dioxide emissions directly tied to comestibles sold and served at IKEA stores was equivalent to 600,000 metric tons. The Telegraph estimates that this figure is roughly equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions produced by 126,300 cars.

It’s unclear when exactly IKEA’s low-carbon “greenballs” will be available and if they’ve be unrolled globally or just at IKEA retail outposts in the U.K. Also, no word if $7.99 rib night will be impacted.

Via [The Telegraph] via [Eater]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

IKEA to curb climate change with veggie Swedish meatballs
The Swedish home furnishings giant plans to offer 'lower carbon alternatives' to the signature pork and beef meatballs sold at its in-store cafes.