By 2050, we will have to feed nearly 10 billion people. With the constant impact of current food manufacturing on the climate and expanding populations, changes have to be made.
To assure our food future is sustainable, food production systems must increasingly consider the impacts made by our food choices on our physical health and the health of our planet. Simply explaining the benefits of changing our diets is not enough. We need a wider set of interventions to accelerate the uptake.
Today, it is increasingly acknowledged that our meat addiction is literally ‘costing the Earth’. In the short term, the biggest lever we have to improve the health of our bodies and the environment is to eat less meat, and particularly from intensively reared livestock.
That is why healthy new proteins with much lower environmental impact are vital if we are going to assure a sustainable food future for us all. This is the next green revolution, and one that Quorn® has been quietly pioneering since the brand’s inception in 1964. The plant-based food industry is on the rise globally as more people are understanding the impact of a meat-heavy diet on health and our environment. Specifically, the negative impact of animal agriculture on global sustainability.
A study in 2010 estimated water consumption in beef production at 15,415 liters per kilogram, a far cry from the 322 liters needed to grow one kilogram of vegetables. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization, classifies red meat, particularly when processed, a carcinogen. Studies supporting plant-focused diets are pouring in, with a recent report from the EAT-Lancet Commission which suggested that a predominantly plant-based diet with reduced meat consumption can mitigate climate change and confer health benefits, such as a lowered risk of heart disease.1
Feeding an Ever-growing Population
An acceleration of both over- and undernutrition within global populations, where current estimates place nearly one million starving people on the planet, and twice that number who are obese. Recent estimates suggest that 20 percent of all global disease is diet-related and therefore wholly preventable.
We can choose which to feed, be it people, animals or cars. Our food production capabilities are finite, and we cannot keep trying to produce more food, feed and fuel crops without devastating consequences. Furthermore, without intervention, we will continue to waste around a third of the food we produce, meaning that approximately 10 percent of the global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in developed economies comes from food that was grown but never eaten.
Two Interconnected Challenges: The Health of Human Beings and The Planet that Sustains us
From a health perspective, we know that poor diets are creating major issues around heart disease, cancer and diabetes, to name a few, which affects the quality of millions of lives and also puts incredible stress on public health systems. The sustainability crisis, on the other hand, has had a growing place in the spotlight, with the need for action only becoming more urgent.
So how exactly are our two great challenges interconnected? The answer is simple: by what we eat. A staggering 14.5 percent of GHG emissions are coming from the livestock supply chain, leading the United Nations (UN) to identify cutting down on meat as the biggest single change individuals can make to address climate change. It’s not surprising to see both these issues embedded in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to which alternative protein options like Quorn® can make a significant contribution.
Food Science and Technology: A Game Changer
Just like how renewable energy was born to complement traditional sources of energy, the meat-free protein sector will only grow from strength to strength, complementing meat as a traditional protein source.
To put things into perspective on how quickly and massively this industry is growing, the alternative meat market is projected to reach $140 billion globally over the next decade, according to a team of Barclays analysts spanning the agriculture, food and restaurant industries. That rapid pace of growth implies the animal-free industry could capture about 10 percent of the $1.4 trillion global meat industry. With the meat-free movement in full swing today, many plant-based meats have sprouted up in recent years with hundreds of millions of dollars in funding pumped into R&D in alternative protein food technology.
Around the world, we’re seeing major meat producers and consumer goods giants investing in meat alternatives. Even fast food chains have started jumping on the alternative protein bandwagon. With some of the world’s biggest grocers and restaurants ramping up their meatless offerings, it has probably never been a more popular time to try a greener meat. According to a recent survey by Ipsos Public Affairs U.S. across 29 countries, respondents in Asian giants, China (73%) and India (63%), were most willing to try plant-based products, marking Asia as a massive market with long-term growth potential for the alternative protein space.
The Way Forward
With the rise of mindful consumers around the world, and people becoming more aware about how their consumption habits impact health and the environment, the meat-free movement will only continue to scale globally. Transparency and commitment to rigorous and scientifically backed research will be key to ensuring the success of the meat alternative industry. This is crucial, given that meat-free brands are now facing increasing scrutiny by regulators worldwide, with the safety concerns due to use of GMO or carcinogenic ingredients, as well as aggressive marketing techniques. Quorn® remains committed to transparency and its more than 20-year clinical nutrition research program and its main ingredient, Mycoprotein, is GMO-free and a whole food, sustainably sourced from farm to fork.
Long before today’s Silicon Valley firms even caught the wind of the meat-free movement, Quorn® has been conducting rigorous research and development to establish Mycoprotein as a nutritious protein source with multiple health benefits, a low environmental impact, and versatility bring dishes in their authentic flavors across a diversity of cultures.
Mycoprotein belongs to food class that Asian consumers have already been consuming for a long time, for example, bread, mushroom, tempeh, and soy sauce. Quorn® 's Mycoprotein products continue to rise in popularity across the world, due to their nutritional profile, potentials to prevent top health issues we face today (cholesterol, obesity, diabetes), as well as stimulate muscle growth more effectively than milk protein. Quorn® will continue to drive the future of food and empower consumers worldwide to make sustainable choices.
- Chan, Jessica (2019) Plant it forward: Is plant-based meat a fad or our future? (online), [Retrieved from]: https://www.businesstimes.com.sg
Director, Science & Technology, Quorn®