UK Government urged to invest £1bn in alternative proteins this decade

In an open letter, they call on the Government to swiftly make considerable investments in the alternative proteins industry, capitalising on the opportunity as early adopters to generate a wide array of employment opportunities, enhance exports and decrease the UK’s dependency on imported food.

Signatories include former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, Eden Project’s co-founder Sir Tim Smit, Nobel laureate and economist Sir Christopher Pissarides, Nobel laureate Sir Roger Penrose, Doughnut Economics’ author Kate Raworth, ‘The Economics of Biodiversity’ report lead Sir Partha Dasgupta, and two further Nobel laureates.

The letter identifies three areas of alternative protein innovation: precision fermentation (a form of brewing using microflora to produce proteins identical to those in traditional meat and dairy), cultivated meat (scaling up animal cells in a bioreactor to produce animal tissues), and plant-based foods (including beans, pulses, plant milks, burgers, sausages, and steaks).

The letter has warned Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of serious consequences for the UK’s economic credibility should he refuse to invest in alternative proteins immediately.

The letter states: “We are standing on the cusp of a technological revolution, a food revolution unprecedented since the dawn of farming thousands of years ago.

“This revolution, led by the rapidly evolving sector of animal-free protein production, leaves the UK with a choice: to invest now and reap the benefits, or to dither and delay whilst the rest of the world takes the lead.”

According to a report by ClimateWorks, the worldwide alternative protein industry is projected to generate up to $1.1trn in gross value added and sustain 9.8 million jobs by 2050.

The signatories contend that this sustainable growth will have positive impacts on the UK economy, mitigate the challenges of the cost of living, and contribute to the UK’s net-zero emissions goals.

However, at the recent Conservative Party Conference, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Therese Coffey demonstrated resistance towards sustainable meat alternatives.

Coffey said: “There are some green zealots who think our farmers should stop rearing livestock and instead we should eat fake meat. I am absolutely not going to tell anyone that they should not eat meat.

“Fake meat may be ok for astronauts but when people think of a meat feast, I want them to be thinking about our great Welsh lamb, our Aberdeen Angus beef, our Saddleback pork. Not some pizza topping.”

Food industry giants lag in sustainable farming initiatives  

In related news, the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) has revealed that more than 90% of food and agriculture firms fall short in their efforts to practice sustainable farming or offer nutritious food.

WBA analysed 350 companies including industry giants such as Bayer, Unilever and Walmart.

According to the analysis, only 15% of companies have committed to zero ecosystem conversion, and just 6% have established time-bound goals to completely eliminate deforestation.

Moreover, only 2% of companies have a grasp of their broader impact on nature, despite their reliance on the long-term health of the planet to grow crops.

Out of 350 companies surveyed, approximately 27% (94 companies) support farmers’ income stability through procurement and pricing practices, while only 4% (13 companies) establish living income benchmarks or calculate the gaps to achieve it.

Indigenous people constitute 6% of the global population and oversee 20% of the world’s land, which is the habitat for 80% of global biodiversity. Nevertheless, only 1% (five companies) demonstrate a commitment to seeking free, prior, and informed consent from these communities regarding projects in indigenous territories.

The report further highlights that many businesses are falling short in their efforts to effectively decrease water consumption and mitigate soil pollution.

FAIRR recently reported that 50 major agriculture and food companies have recognised regenerative agriculture’s potential for addressing climate and biodiversity issues, but over half haven’t set formal company-wide goals.

It is hoped that the recently launched Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) recommendations will reduce industrial impact on nature by promoting extensive reporting on companies’ environmental footprint and the integration of nature-related factors into their strategies.

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