Our briefing note looks at the ethical and social issues around emerging meat alternatives. The topic emerged from our 2018 horizon scanning workshop on food sustainability (you can read Sir Roland Jackson’s blog on the workshop, Unpacking the ethics of food sustainability: health, harmony and beyond).
The briefing note examines the ethical, social and policy challenges of meat production and how current research and scientific developments into meat alternatives may meet rising consumer demands. The note explores ethical challenges related to meat alternatives considering human health and well being, and how policies for these developments may be orientated sustainably to take account of the environment, animal welfare and impacts on the farming industry.
- There is growing interest and investment in meat alternatives that attempt to imitate meat, with plant-based products already available and cultured meat in development.
- The environmental profile of meat alternatives looks promising in some scenarios, but there is little independent evidence on the consequences of large-scale production.
- Long-term studies are needed to assess the health and other implications of eating meat alternatives.
- The proportion of people willing to try plant-based and cultured meat alternatives is increasing. There are calls for accurate and transparent labelling and marketing practices, and for regulatory preparedness.
- It is important to contextualise the role of meat alternatives within our global food system. Meat alternatives might increase food security if production is scaled up, but meat reduction initiatives could have a negative impact on some farming communities. Meat alternatives should be considered within these broader contexts and alongside a range of other potential solutions for achieving food sustainability.