Shift to Vegetarian Alternatives Could Replace a Third of Meat Consumption by 2040, Study Finds

by Ella

A new study suggests that vegetarian alternatives have the potential to replace up to one-third of meat consumption by the year 2040, preventing the annual raising and slaughtering of over 300 million animals in factory farms.

Conducted by the Social Market Foundation think tank and funded by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), the research explores the growth of “alternative proteins,” including plant-based, lab-grown, and fermented options such as Quorn.


Estimates regarding the future market share of these alternatives vary widely, ranging from 3% to 70%, making the growth trajectory of “alternative proteins” uncertain and unpredictable.


Britain, ranking second in sales and third in per-person spending on alternative proteins in Europe, plays a significant role in the potential shift. However, the study emphasizes that the industry’s expansion relies on refining products and reducing costs.


The study suggests that streamlining government regulations to expedite the introduction of new products could have a significant impact. The Good Food Institute estimates an annual investment of £78 million for the UK to compete with other countries aspiring to become “alternative protein superpowers,” such as Denmark, the Netherlands, and Canada.


Previous research from the Social Market Foundation found that 58% of people have taken steps to reduce or eliminate meat consumption. However, dissatisfaction with current meat alternatives highlights the need for continued refinement and improvement.

Aveek Bhattacharya, SMF Interim Director, emphasized the enormous potential benefits of alternative proteins in producing tasty, nutritious, and affordable food without compromising animal welfare or the environment. He acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding the full realization of these benefits but stressed the importance of avoiding regulatory hindrance and encouraging government support and investment.

Gemma Hope, Assistant Director of Policy, Advocacy and Evidence at RSPCA, expressed the organization’s desire to see an end to intensive farming, highlighting the significant opportunities that alternative proteins provide in achieving this goal. Hope stressed the need for government and industry support to realize the potential environmental, health, and animal welfare benefits of these alternatives.

The study aligns with a Food Standards Agency report from last year, which identified a growing trend in alternative protein products, including plant-based processed options, novel protein sources, proteins from fermentation, and lab-grown cultured meat. However, the report acknowledged challenges related to health benefits, consumer acceptance, production scalability, and viability.



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