Alternative protein foods could replace up to a third of the meat we eat by 2040, according to a new study.
A switch from meat to other protein-rich products could prevent more than 300 million animals being raised in factory farms and slaughtered annually.
But the growth of ‘alternative proteins’ – which include plant-based, lab-grown and fermented ingredients such as Quorn – is hugely uncertain and unpredictable, with estimates of its future market share ranging from 3 per cent to 70 per cent.
The research on the alternative meat takeover has been carried out by the Social Market Foundation think tank and funded by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).
It was based on interviews with 10 experts within the food sector.
Alternative protein foods, including lab-grown, plant-based, and fermented ingredients, could replace up to a third of the meat we eat by 2040
The future market share of alternative proteins, which includes popular brands such as Quorn, is unpredictable, with estimates of its future market share ranging from 3 per cent to 70 per cent
Britain has the second-highest sales and third-highest per person spending on alternative proteins in Europe.
But the industry’s expansion depends on producers refining their products and making them cheaper, the study concludes.
Government policy to streamline regulation, making it quicker and easier to put new products on the shelves, would make a ‘very significant difference’, experts concluded.
The Good Food Institute estimates that it will cost £78million a year in investment for the UK to compete with countries like Denmark, the Netherlands and Canada, which are seeking to become ‘alternative protein superpowers’.
Previous SMF research found that 58 per cent of people have taken steps to eliminate or reduce their own meat consumption.
Meanwhile, a significant portion of people were dissatisfied with the current meat alternatives on offer.
Aveek Bhattacharya, SMF Interim Director, said: ‘The potential benefits of alternative proteins are enormous – producing tasty, nutritious and cheap food, without the horrendous costs to animal welfare and to the planet that factory farming currently involves. Whether it can fully deliver on that promise remains uncertain, but that is almost always the case with exciting new technologies.
A switch from meat to other protein-rich products could prevent more than 300 million animals being raised in factory farms and slaughtered annually (File Photo)
‘Plant-based alternatives have already gained a good foothold in many people’s diets, but they need refinement and improvement if they are to fundamentally disrupt the meat industry.’
He added: ‘The Government should ensure regulation does not smother the industry, and can support it with judicious investment. If successful, hundreds of millions of animal lives can be saved, and we will be that much closer to meeting our environmental obligations.’
Gemma Hope, Assistant Director of Policy, Advocacy and Evidence at RSPCA, said: ‘We ultimately want to see an end to intensive farming and alternative proteins offer huge opportunities to move towards this and change the lives of animals. We know that alternative proteins are better for the planet, can be better for our health and they are better for animals but we need government and industry to have the will to invest and support development of this market to make these changes a reality.’
Last year a Food Standards Agency report said the UK was seeing a growth in alternative protein products to replace beef, lamb, pork, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy.
The products come in four main categories:
- Plant-based processed products designed to have a similar texture and taste to meat.
- Novel protein sources such as insects, seaweed and bacteria.
- Proteins generated from fermentation, such as Quorn, yeasts and fungi.
- Lab-grown cultured meat derived from animal cells.
But the report said there were issues with health benefits, consumer popularity, scaling up production and viability.