Posted on Jun 15, 2019, 2 p.m.
Very soon the majority of meat for human consumption will have to be produced artificially if the food supply and demand is to keep up with population growth and climate change, according to experts.
Predictions are that within the next 20 years an estimated 40% of the world’s meat supply will come from animals, the other 60% will come from alternatives such as those grown in a lab with cultures or those made with plant products to mimic meat such as tofu or veggie burgers.
The elephant in the room most people don’t want to address is that livestock not only take up land that could be used for the more environmentally friendly crops, but livestock and meat processing are one of the biggest sources of greenhouse emissions around the globe. Experts suggest that currently half of the world’s crops are fed to livestock, only 15% of the plant calories end up being consumed by humans as meat; according to the report cultured meat and vegan meat replacements retain about three quarters of their input calories.
This recent report was compiled by AT Keaney with the goal to gain better understandings of how the challenges facing agriculture due to climate change and projected population growth will impact the food supply and demand.
“With the advantages of novel vegan meat replacements and cultured meat over conventionally produced meat, it is only a matter of time before they capture a substantial market share,” the report states.
Meat alternatives producers are making significant advancements that are viable substitutes which don’t compromise taste but are made from insects, plants, or even grown in labs. Companies such as Beyond Meat, Just Foods, and Impossible Foods are working on plant based meat alternatives; around 1 billion dollars is estimated to have been invested in making vegan products. While lab meat is still not available to consumers it may soon take over the market with products such as slaughter free salmon created from cultured cells by the startup Wild Type.
Aquabounty will also be entering the market soon with its genetically engineered “frankenfish” salmon. This could hit the market by 2020, the first fish was determined to be safe from human consumption in 2015, and is currently the only animal for food use that has FDA approval and would reduce the dependence on seafood imports.
"The FDA is committed to supporting innovation and ensuring safety in the biotechnology space, including the use of intentional genomic alterations in animals," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement. "We’re interested in the promise that newer technologies can have for bringing innovative products, such as these, to market while also helping to ensure they are safe and effective."
Many consumers are trying to shift their diets to incorporate less meat and more plant based foods in response to the increasing global awareness of the environmental impacts of the meat industry, along with science showing the benefits of reducing meat in the diet and replacing it with plant based sources of protein. Some choose to stop eating meat due to concerns over how the animals are raised and treated in the industry, as well as all the hormones and chemicals that they are fed which are then passed on to those who eat them.
“The shift towards flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan lifestyles is undeniable, with many consumers cutting down on their meat consumption as a result of becoming more conscious towards the environment and animal welfare. For passionate meat-eaters, the predicted rise of cultured meat products means that they still get to enjoy the same diet they always have, but without the same environmental and animal cost attached,” Carsten Gerhardt, a partner at AT Kearney, told The Guardian.
“The shift to more sustainable patterns of protein consumption is already under way, driven by consumers, investors and entrepreneurs, and even pulling in the world’s biggest meat companies. If anything, predictions that 60% of the world’s ‘meat’ will not come from slaughtered animals in 20 years’ time may be an underestimation.”
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.