By 2040, more than half of all meat consumed will be lab-grown or made of plant-based alternatives, as people around the world opt for more sustainable food options, a new report says.
The report, produced by global consultancy firm AT Kearney, is based on global market trends and interviews with industry experts, and suggests that the change already being seen in consumer behavior might stem from an increase in environmental consciousness and animal welfare concerns.
“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.”
Vegan or plant-based alternatives to meat and lab-grown (also called cultured meat) can provide the same amount of nutritional benefits, protein, and calories as meat, the report suggests. The meat industry, which brings in more than $1 trillion a year, is expected to be majorly disrupted by the growing market for meat replacement products.
Many companies known for their meat-based products, like Burger King, are adapting to shifting consumer preferences by adding meatless items to their menu. The company recently announced a meatless burger option called “Impossible Whopper,” which features Impossible Food’s burger patty, made from soybean roots to resemble beef. The meatless burger had sold-out at a surprising rate when first introduced. Other successful chains like White Castle and Bareburger have also started carrying meatless options.
As consumer demands for animal- and eco-friendly meat alternatives increase, investors are readily investing in vegan products. In May, Impossible Foods, which develops plant-based substitutes for meat and dairy products, raised $300 million in funding.
According to the AT Kearney report, the meat market will also observe a significantly lower growth rate due to global population growth concentrating in India and African countries, where meat consumption is relatively low. The report also suggests that the demand for lab-grown meat is likely to become a global phenomenon, based on surveys conducted in India, China, and the US.
In addition to saving animals from slaughter, switching to meat alternatives can have benefits on the environment. In fact, the United Nations also recommends a global shift to plant-based diet as a way to combat climate change.
Raising enough animals to feed the world produces large quantities of carbon emissions, which harm the planet and contribute to climate change. Worldwide, animal agriculture produces more greenhouse gases than all the world’s transportation modes combined. Meat alternatives can help fight global warming by reducing animal husbandry and can save thousands of animals from suffering in factory farms.
“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,” Carsten Gerhardt, a partner at AT Kearney, told the Guardian.
“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.”