What we choose to eat shapes the health of the planet – as well as ours. Internationally-renowned agricultural scientist, Dr Howard-Yana Shapiro, sums up the impact.
“Food production is the biggest threat to our planet – 70% of the biodiversity loss, 70% of the fresh water use, 25% of the greenhouse gas emissions come directly from that. Eighty-five per cent of the marine stocks are exploited,” he said. To chart a different course, Dr Shapiro says: ‘let’s breed plants that are ‘more nutritious, that are higher-yielding, that are resilient to climate change, resistant to pests and disease and water and nutrient sufficient’.
Plants are also proving a key ingredient in the quest to develop sustainable food products that appeal to the public more than meat. The plant-based food revolution sweeping the world has been gathering pace over the past three to four years. And new figures released today by the Good Food Institute (GFI) reveal that last year in America, and through the first quarter of 2020, the industry attracted record levels of investment. In 2019, plant-based meat, egg, and dairy companies in the country received $747 million, the highest in its history. While cultivated meat companies saw investment rise 63% from 2018, to $77 million, a number it then surpassed in the first quarter of this year with $189 million.
“There’s been a surge in investor confidence fueled by durable and increasing consumer interest in alternative proteins. Investors have seen the market opportunity and are moving to capitalize on a global shift in the way meat is produced,” said Caroline Bushnell, GFI Associate Director of Corporate Engagement. “This record-level investment will bolster the industry and support continued growth and innovation for the long term, ensuring that alternative protein companies have the resources to grow and thrive, particularly during times of short-term market volatility. The Covid-19 crisis has made bolstering our global protein supply more critical than ever, given the inherent—and now very apparent—vulnerability of supply chains dependent on industrial animal agriculture.”
GFI Executive Director Bruce Friedrich wrote for us earlier this year about these changing appetites, saying ‘we don’t need to replace meat – we need to reimagine meat’.
On the latest statistics showing a rising demand for plant-based foods, he said: “Plant-based and cultivated meats give consumers everything they like about meat but produced more sustainably. Most of the conventional meat companies have reconstituted as protein companies, and nine of the 10 biggest have either launched or invested in plant-based meat, cultivated meat, or both. With historic pressures on conventional meat production, we expect to see the large meat conglomerates double down on their alternative protein investments.”