Sustainability / Environment

Alternative Proteins Could Displace Two Thirds of Meat & Dairy Consumed in Europe by 2050

A new report by UK environmental charity and think tank Green Alliance has found that the alternative protein industry could be key to significantly reducing land use in ten European countries — Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

The report finds that there is not enough land on the planet for current animal product consumption patterns to continue without a hugely detrimental environmental impact. However, alternative proteins could provide the taste of meat and dairy with significantly reduced land use, particularly as technologies like precision fermentation and cultivated meat make alt proteins increasingly indistinguishable from their animal counterparts.

Reduced reliance on overseas land

Green Alliance estimates that under a high innovation scenario, alternative proteins could displace around two-thirds of the meat and dairy consumed in Europe by 2050. This would reduce reliance on overseas land by 75%, while freeing up land that could create space for nature or be used for carbon capture. In 2050, using land-based carbon storage options such as trees and peat instead of expensive engineered solutions could save €21 billion annually across the ten countries studied.

This is described as a huge opportunity for Europe, which has already fully exploited its agricultural land and is becoming increasingly reliant on overseas production. If Europe shifted towards alternative proteins, it is estimated that an area equivalent to the size of France could be liberated within the continent, while an area the size of Spain could be freed up overseas.

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However, good government policies will be needed to support the alternative protein industry and ensure that any land freed up is used wisely. Unsupportive policies — such as Italy’s cultivated meat ban — could have a negative impact on food security.

Opportunity for farmers

While alternative proteins are often portrayed as a threat to traditional agriculture, the Green Alliance report finds that they actually provide an opportunity for farmers to boost their incomes. Along with producing ingredients for alternative proteins, domestic farmers could be paid to sequester carbon and restore nature, providing an income stream unaffected by weather fluctuations. This would also help to bring money into rural communities.

“Across the world, countries, such as Singapore, China, and the United Arab Emirates, are already investing to grow their alternative protein industries. If European countries don’t act soon to compete, they risk losing a potential commercial advantage in a new worldwide market,” says Green Alliance. “Governments across Europe face choices about the future of their food systems and land management. Alternative proteins offer great potential to bring more of Europe’s production onshore, whilst restoring nature and tackling climate change. It’s up to governments to decide whether they want a stake in this growing industry that offers so much opportunity.”

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