The majority of the meat that people will be eating in 2040 will not come from slaughtered animals, but will instead be laboratory-grown “clean” meat or are plant-based meat alternatives, according to a newly published report. Greater acceptance of cultured meat and vegan-friendly meat alternatives in Asia will work to drive this predicted lifestyle shift.
The newly published report by global consultancy AT Kearney predicts that at least 60% of meat consumption in the future will no longer be produced by traditional livestock farming. After conducting a series of expert interviews, researchers found that consumers are increasingly concerned about animal welfare and the environmental impacts of conventional meat production.
Viewed by many as an unnecessary evil, it is only a matter of time before vegan meat replacements and cultured “clean” meat captures a substantial percentage of the global market share, outlines the report.
A number of recent scientific studies have highlighted the detrimental environmental impact of the conventional meat and dairy farming industry. It is not only a significant source of carbon emissions driving climate change, but is also resource inefficient in using great amounts of arable land and water. As our global population continues to grow, the current way of farming livestock and rate of meat consumption is no longer sustainable. Almost half of the global crop supply is fed to livestock, with only a remainder of 15 % of plant calories being eaten by humans as meat.
Being labeled as the “single biggest way” to reduce your environmental footprint, sales of plant-based meat, dairy and egg alternative products have already shot up in the past years. Food-tech start-ups have also received huge funding from big names such as JAY-Z and Katy Perry who had their eye on Impossible Foods. Beyond Meat, for instance, raised US$ 240 million when the company went public in May and have seen their shares more than double since.
Other food-tech companies have instead focused on developing “clean” meat – cell-based meat that is grown and manufactured in laboratories. Hong Kong-based start-up Avant Meats for example, are currently developing cultured fish products like fish maw that often featured in traditional Chinese soups.
Carsten Gerhardt, a partner at AT Kearney, explains that the report’s findings are unsurprising, given that the shift towards flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan lifestyles is already underway. In addition to many consumers becoming more careful about meat consumption, dedicated omnivores will also inevitably turn towards cultured meat products that do not have the same environmental and animal welfare cost attached.
Survey-based research conducted in the United States, China and India supports these conclusions. A report published earlier this year in Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems showed that Chinese and Indian consumers in particular were more open to trying plant-based and clean meat alternatives than their American counterparts. While the study found that all countries exhibited high levels of acceptance, greater approval in attitudes towards cultured and vegan meat products were observed in Asian consumers, particularly women.
Rosie Wardle from the Jeremy Coller Foundation, which is focused on promoting sustainable food systems, said that consumer, investor and entrepreneurial-driven change is already happening, and that the 60% prediction of the AT Kearney report might even be an “underestimation”.
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