UK Makes First Tentative Step To Join The Global Sustainable Protein Race With Post-Brexit Report

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The U.K. Government has published a paper entitled ‘The Benefits of Brexit’. The 100-page report has included one six-line paragraph alluding to potential novel food regulation updates.

A review of existing regulations appears underway based on the report. The food paragraph pledges the government will work with the Food Standards Agency to ‘update the process for approving novel foods’. The move is said to be an attempt to support innovators within the sector, while being transparent for consumers and investors. Sustainable protein was named as the key focal area though the term is not explicitly defined.

While the mention of the alternative protein sector at all is encouraging, the paper promises a review of existing regulations, with no further concrete action or investment- there is no onus to change said regulations if the government does not see the alternative protein sector as one to invest in.

Cultivated meatballs. Photo by Memphis Meats.

Lagging behind

A fair portion of the food and drink section of the report focuses on a farm to fork strategy. Supporting domestic agri-food production is listed as a priority, with conventional meat presumably being a large part of this. Alternative protein is deemed a values-driven purchase. 

“We will do more to ensure the UK is at the forefront of food innovation globally, giving consumers the choice and ability to consume more sustainable proteins that align with their values, while also supporting our net zero ambitions and strengthening the UK’s food security,” the report states.”

Elsewhere, it claimed that “record levels of research and development funding” will be pumped into making the U.K. a scientific superpower. £20 billion is cited for investment by 2024-2025. No breakdown of which sectors will benefit has been offered, but life sciences appears to be the only intended recipient. There is no mention of the burgeoning global cultivated meat industry or food development at all. Despite looking to build a, consistently reinforced, domestic superiority in innovation, the government appears to concede that notable scientific minds from other nations will be essential. Fast-track immigration is listed as a potential route for suitable candidates.

Those within the cultivated meat sector in the U.K. are citing the report as “huge” and promising. Time will tell if celebrations are premature.

Cultivated chicken. Photo by Eat Just.

Progress elsewhere

Outside of the U.K. sustainable protein is already being explored extensively.

Singapore is further along the regulatory pathway than everyone else, having given approval for the sale of two Eat Just cultivated products. The U.S. is anticipated to follow suit any day, with Upside Foods champing at the bit to release its cultivated meat products. Approval was sought by year-end 2021, but was not forthcoming.

Israel, one of the biggest innovators in the market, secured another big win with a blind taste test from SuperMeat. A professional food taster was unable to distinguish animal meat from a cultivated alternative, paving the way for ethical food development in the future.

Most recently, China made a significant show of support for its domestic cultivated meat and sustainable protein sector. Provisions for the industry have been made within its five-year agricultural plan for the first time ever. The move is thought to have come after food security fears heightened due to a pork supply shortage during an African Swine Flu outbreak. A desire to bolster domestic food production, coupled with sustainable, taste-equivalent alternatives to meat are considered reasonable as well.


Lead photo by Thomas Kelley on Unsplash.

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