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· Alternative proteins are increasingly accepted, but consumption is lagging behind
· Beyond the impossible: Lab-grown meat is better for the planet -- if you'll eat it
Alternative proteins are increasingly accepted, but consumption is lagging behind
Source: Wageningen Economic Research (Netherlands)
November 18, 2020
More and more Dutch people want to eat less meat, dairy and eggs and are more likely to opt for alternative protein sources. They also see themselves less and less as typical meat eaters. Yet the consumption of alternative proteins - fish, pulses, meat substitutes, seaweed and insects - is not increasing. This is shown in research by Wageningen Economic Research.
Researchers of Wageningen Economic Research mapped the protein consumption of 2,461 Dutch in 2019. They also wanted to know what the respondents think of the different protein sources and what the motivation behind their consumption behaviour is. The study was a repeat of an earlier measurement in 2015, which also allows comparisons over time.
Less typical meat eaters
More and more Dutch consider themselves vegetarian, vegan or flexitarian: 12.6%, against 8.6% in 2015. The group that does not recognize themselves in these descriptions, but says they consciously eat less meat, has also grown in four years : from 13.5% to 18.4%. The number of people who see themselves as typical meat eaters shows a declining trend: from more than 71% in 2015 to more than 61% in 2019.
Gap between intentions and behaviour
The researchers discovered that the Dutch are increasingly prepared to consume alternative proteins - especially fish and pulses. It is also striking that a vegetarian burger made from "cultivated meat" is seen as the best alternative to the traditional hamburger, probably because it most closely resembles it. Insects and - to a lesser extent - seaweed are clearly less accepted as alternatives.
Despite all intentions, the consumption of alternative proteins has not increased; there is a gap between intentions and behaviour. Meat remains by far the most important protein source for most Dutch and is served more than five times a week. Chicken is on the rise and is eaten almost four times a week. Of the vegetable protein sources, only meat substitutes show a slight increase: they are on the menu about twice a week. Just like in 2015, pulses were the most consumed vegetable protein source in 2019 (three times a week).
The respondents were also asked about their motives for choosing alternative proteins. Taste and smell, health and "degree of naturalness" are often mentioned for all alternatives. With pulses, price also plays an important role, while "convenience" is often cited as an important choice argument for fish.
Norms and emotions
It is striking that not only conscious considerations play an important role in understanding the acceptance of alternative proteins. The social norm - "how should we behave?" - plays an important role. Personal emotions also strongly determine whether alternatives are accepted or not. Fish and pulses evoke the strongest positive emotions. Insects hardly evoke positive feelings and can count on the most disgust.
First step towards less meat consumption
Proteins are a vital part of a healthy diet. Animal proteins - meat, dairy and eggs - are increasingly consumed worldwide, but their production has a significant negative impact on the environment. There are also health risks associated with the consumption of animal proteins, such as red meat. It is therefore necessary to replace at least some of the animal proteins with proteins from vegetable, sustainable sources. Wageningen Economic Research's study shows that more and more Dutch are willing to take that step. Although consumption is not yet or hardly increasing, according to the researchers, this willingness is a step towards less meat consumption and more vegetable proteins on the plate.
Beyond the impossible: Lab-grown meat is better for the planet -- if you'll eat it
Cultured meat could be better for the environment, but whether you'll want to eat it is another issue. And don't expect vegans and vegetarians to get on board.
Brian Cooley, C|Net
Nov. 18, 2020
Winston Churchill foresaw the biggest food innovation of the 21st century back in 1931: "We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium."
Today that prospect nears, but is still so new it doesn't have a widely agreed-upon name: cultured meat, clean meat, lab-grown meat, cultivated meat or, by its detractors, test tube meat.
All those terms denote meat grown from animal cells, rather than from a living, sentient animal. I'll call it cultured meat, but regardless of name, it may start arriving at small scale in 2022 from companies such as Mosa Meat, Memphis Meats, Aleph Farms, and Meatable. It will be positioned as a more sustainable, environmentally friendly option for meat eaters. But who it will appeal to and at what price remains a different story.
More food, fewer resources
Meat production's footprint on natural resources is an accepted issue. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says the livestock sector "is increasing pressure on ecosystems and natural resources" and "in some cases its impact on ecosystems is out of proportion with the economic significance of the sector." The FAO also estimates that 26% of the earth's land that isn't covered in ice is used for livestock grazing, and that 33% of all crop lands are used to grow crops to feed to livestock that are fed to people in a sort of nutritional bucket brigade.
Cultured meat doesn't require grazing land or tons of feed. Instead it's grown in bioreactors like those already used to produce pharmaceuticals and ethanol. A few animal cells are chosen for the type of meat desired, and placed on a biological scaffold to grow into the right shape and structure in a bioreactor that turbocharges cell growth from a speck to a serving.
In many ways, the process is old news: "We already grow animal cells at scale," says Ryan Bethencourt, co-founder of venture capital firm IndieBio, an early investor in cultured meat startup Memphis Meats. "All the big pharma companies essentially have big protein factories" for the development of biologic drugs, he says. The first cultured meat hamburger was unveiled (and eaten) in 2013.
But if the basic technology for growing cultured meat is relatively clear, how much energy will be required at scale is less so.
"Cultured meat production will likely require more industrial energy than do livestock to produce equivalent quantities of meat," says Alison Van Eenennaam, a cooperative extension specialist in the Department of Animal Science at the University of California, Davis, in a presentation to the 2019 Range Beef Cow Symposium.
A paper from Arizona State University, which is cited by both clean meat doubters and backers, suggests cultured meat "could require smaller quantities of agricultural inputs and land than livestock," but at a potentially higher energy demand. The reason? It doesn't use animals whose bodies provide temperature regulation, waste elimination and other functions that will have to be replaced by industrial equivalents. But the Good Food Institute, a leading connector of cultured meat innovators and investors, says that clean energy will develop alongside the cultured meat sector to "reduce the life cycle emissions of a clean meat facility by 40% to 80%."
Even if substantial energy is needed to produce clean meat, there could still be large environmental rewards. A 2018 paper by Hanna Tuomisto of University of Helsinki calculates a potentially large reduction in greenhouse gases with cultured meat compared to raising cows and sheep for meat...
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