Most of the meat being eaten by 2040 will not come from animals, instead being lab-grown or replaced with plant-based meat substitutes, a new report predicts.
Growing concerns for animal welfare coupled with the environmental impact of traditional farming will lead to 60 per cent of all meat being substituted for alternatives, according to a report from the global consultancy AT Kearney.
The prediction comes from a number of interviews carried out with industry experts, factoring in the amount of recent investment from around the globe in sustainable meat alternatives.
“The large-scale livestock industry is viewed by many as an unnecessary evil,” the report says. “With the advantages of novel vegan meat replacements and cultured meat over conventionally produced meat, it is only a matter of time before they capture a substantial market share.”
While the meat industry continues to turn over $1 trillion (Dh3.6 trillion) each year, there has been more than $1 billion of investment in vegan produce, AT Kearney estimates, spurred largely by the recent influx of companies specialising in meat and dairy alternatives.
Companies including Beyond Meat, Just Foods and Impossible Foods all use plant-based ingredients to mimic burgers, scrambled eggs, cheese and other products, while more and more restaurants are including vegan meat options on their menus. Beyond Meat raised $240m after going public in May, and has seen its shares more than double since.
There are also a number of companies working towards producing cultured meat grown from cells in labs without the need to raise and kill animals. While this is yet to hit the consumer market, AT Kearney predicts this will be a long-term trend that will dominate our diets in the future.
The report estimates 35 per cent of all meat eaten by 2040 will be cultured, while 25 per cent will be vegan replacements. "The shift towards flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan lifestyles is undeniable, with many consumers cutting down on their meat consumption as a result of becoming more conscious towards the environment and animal welfare," said Carsten Gerhardt, a partner at AT Kearney. "For passionate meat-eaters, the predicted rise of cultured meat products means that they still get to enjoy the same diet they always have, but without the same environmental and animal cost attached."
The report cites surveys undertaken in the US, China and India to predict that initial uneasiness surrounding cultured will be bridged by “novel vegan meat replacements”, which will be an essential part of the transition phase.
Is veganism the answer to saving the planet?
Research released last year suggested that adopting a vegan lifestyle is the single best way to combat climate change. Joseph Poore, a researcher at the University of Oxford, said animal product is doing a lot more damage to the planet than expected.
The findings, published in the study Reducing food's environmental impacts through producers and consumers, found that if the world's population adopted a vegan diet, global greenhouse gas emissions would be cut by 25 per cent – and 3.1 billion less hectares of land would be needed for farming.
“I was interested in exploring whether it was possible to eat sustainable animal products and the answer we came to was a very strong no,” said Poore, who has himself adopted a vegan diet.
“Even the best farmers were still doing a lot more damage than we expected.”
Here is where to find vegan meat alternatives in the UAE:
Bareburger – Dubai and Abu Dhabi
Bareburger was the first to bring fake meat burgers to the UAE back in September 2018. The B12 burger uses a Beyond Burger patty, which changes hue as it cooks, just like the real thing, and “bleeds” as it is cut. It now has a full vegan burger menu, also offering Impossible patties, with as many topping options and variations as you could wish for.
Pickl – Dubai
Dirty burger joint Pickl in Dubai recently added its first Beyond Burger option to its menu. While the burger itself is not vegan, thanks to a topping of cheese and Pickl’s signature burger sauce, the burger itself is plant-based, making it suitable for vegetarians.
Sheikh and Shake – Dubai
Sheikh and Shake, which has branches in JLT and Business Bay, now offers a Beyond Sheikh meal made using Beyond Burger patties, which has been proving very popular for the restaurant since it added it to its eat-in and take-out menus.
Nolu’s – Abu Dhabi
Raw by Nolu's at Abu Dhabi's Al Seef Village is a haven for vegetarians and vegans, with plenty of meat-free options to choose from. Alongside its other veggie burger options, Nolu's now offers a Beyond Burger patty, served with or without cheese to suit both vegetarian and vegan diets.