“Future Food”: From development to shopping basket
Protein is a key component in a healthy, balanced diet. However, the majority of protein consumed by humans derives from animals and is extremely resource-intensive to produce. What might alternatives look like? And what needs to happen to enable alternative protein products to end up in consumers’ baskets? Three speakers spoke about this at the Swiss-Food Talk.
The past five years have seen a veritable explosion of research into alternative proteins and in the number of companies entering the sector. As the vast majority of protein consumed today is derived from livestock, there would be huge benefits for both the environment and the climate if more protein could be produced using fewer resources. And yet consumers in these parts remain to be convinced by alternative products. Cultural barriers stand in the way. Customers purchase what they are already familiar with. Which products have the potential to shake off the niche label and enjoy mainstream commercial success?
“The inefficiency of animal proteins”
The Good Food Institute in Tel-Aviv is a science-based non-profit organization which aims to promote research and innovation within Israel’s alternative proteins sector. Aviv Oren from the Institute begins his presentation with an overview of the topic. Why should we even consider alternative proteins? “It is a straightforward equation,” he says. 30 percent of the world’s land is used for agriculture. And 70 percent of agricultural land is now used to feed livestock. According to FAO forecasts, the demand for animal products will double over the next decade. “There is not enough land available to meet this demand for meat and dairy products,” says Aviv Oren. It will therefore be necessary to produce protein differently in the future.
“Animal protein is very inefficient to produce. It takes 34 calories of feed to obtain a single calorie of energy from a cow,” Oren goes on to explain. This has a negative impact on natural resources, such as water and land. And intensive livestock farming and the associated methane emissions are also driving climate change. Animal protein ought therefore to be increasingly replaced by alternatives in the future. “For people to switch to alternative products, we need protein that looks, tastes, and can be prepared in the same way as the “real” thing,” adds Oren. Alternative dairy products in particular have shown that this is possible. In the United States, they already make up 16 percent of the market.