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It seems that plant-based meat and lab-grown steak are here to stay according to a report in which experts claim that by 2040 most meat will not come from slaughtered animals.
That may sound like music to the ears of environmentalists and animal rights activists alike but it should also sound major alarm bells for meat producing agricultural nations like Ireland and Argentina.
It’s only a few months since Impossible Burger 2.0 took the Best Tech prize at this year’s CES event in Las Vegas. It heralded the impact that plant-based meat and other meat alternatives would be having on the way we eat in 2019 and beyond. And that was just the beginning.
The environmental impact of traditional beef farming methods is well documented, but there has been a hightening in environmental awareness thanks in part to the Extinction Rebellion movement, but also to a whole slew of reports warning on the existential threats posed by climate change, the loss of biodiversity, extinction of plant species and threats to the bee and insect populations of the world.
The report by global consultancy AT Kearney based on expert interviews highlights the environmental impact of traditional farming as the main driver for the meat revolution.
“The large-scale livestock industry is viewed by many as an unnecessary evil,” the report says. “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.”
Consumers are responding with the way they eat. Veganism is on the rise and plant based meat alternatives are no longer niche but in some cases occupy their own supermarket aisle. Beyond Meat’s IPO in May took investors by surprise, and it was so successful with the stock soaring 160% and raising $240 million on its first day of trading. Stocks have doubled in value since then, while profits at the meat alternative start-up were a reported $40.2 million in the first quarter of 2019 — up 215% from the same period last year. VCs are hungry for food tech opportunities and meat alternatives are very much the beneficiary of a new vision of our food future.
Right now plant-based meat seems to be winning the race for dominance in the sector, mostly because the technology is less complex than that required to reproduce cellular meat in the lab, but the report claims that the cell cultured product will win out in the long term because it mimics the flavour and texture of slaughtered meat. It is only a matter of time before a steak raised in the lab will be indistinguishable from grass fed beef.
“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,” said Carsten Gerhardt, a partner at AT Kearney. “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.”
The report claims that 35% of all meat will be cultured by 2040 and 25% will be plant-based.
That is a seismic shift in our own lifetimes. It also opens up a whole new world of cuisine and cooking which of course, chefs will steer. Scientists and biotech experts need chefs to be involved at every stage of the production process, farmers will need to adapt in the long run. Family farms that have reared cows for generations should be looking at their long-term business plans.