Changing Our Conception of Food: The Importance of CleanTech in the Food Industry
Developments in CleanTech towards carbon net zero may seem outside of the individual’s everyday life. However, this is not the case. Rather, the revolutionising food industry is encouraging the consumption of CleanTech.
In the past few years, there has been a marked departure from traditional meat and dairy consumption, with animal products being replaced by ‘sustainable’ alternatives. This trend away from animal based foods is driven largely by the increased prevalence of ethical consumption patterns including vegetarianism, flexitarianism and veganism. Although, behind these social labels lies a transforming food industry looking to reduce carbon emissions in the production of new and alternative food products.
Fundamentally, reducing meat consumption is kinder to the environment, with cattle alone producing more greenhouse gas emissions than cars, making the beef and dairy industry responsible for 9 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans. A recent study from the FAO shows that the total emissions from global livestock is 7.1 gigatons of Co2 equivalent per year, which is 14.5 percent of all human greenhouse gas emissions.
In light of these statistics, there has been a growing international consensus that consumption patterns have to change. As of 2019, 92% of plant-based meals are consumed by 22 million flexitarians across the UK presenting the increasing growth of cleaner eating. However, an important caveat to this remains the US, with meat demand and consumption on the rise in, contributing $270 billion to the $1.4 trillion global meat industry. It is important to note that the complications associated with large-scale farming are not limited to greenhouse gas emissions; multiple complications span from health issues, animal welfare and waste production.
Yet the meat-alternative market is undeniably trendy. It’s clear to see with fast-food franchise giants such as Greggs and KFC jumping on the band wagon to produce vegan alternatives of their products in a deal with meat-alternative frontrunner Quorn. This development followed strong consumer demand and a PETA petition signed by more than 20,000 people.
So, are meat alternatives actually the solution?
The technology surrounding the meat alternative companies such as Quorn is the use of mycroproteins grown in laboratories which are said to have 70 percent lower carbon footprint than chicken. Furthermore, since 2017, Quorn’s carbon impact has reduced by 32 percent through their own efforts and additionally through CleanTech developments from their supply chain and the decarbonisation of the grid. Quorn detail in their 2019 sustainability report that they are the first global meat alternative brand to achieve certification by the Carbon Trust of its carbon footprint figures.
A CleanTech and Climate Change Podcast with CEO, Patrick Morris, of Eat Beyond Global Investment Fund uncovered the successes of investment into plant-based foods. Morris discusses the motivation for the fund, suggesting that him and his team noticed the rapidly growing market with $17 billion invested in plant based food industry in 2018, with a 39 percent increase in investment deals compared to 2017. He goes on to note massive companies investing in foodtech and plant-based alternatives, suggesting that corporates are noticing the new direction of the food industry and are “putting their money where their mouth is.”
Prior to COVID, Morris notes that numbers were moving slowly towards plant-based, remarking that 32 percent of American’s consider themselves flexitarians. In the midst of the crisis, however, the trends have been amplified as health consciousness rises, especially considering the connection between animal consumption and the spread of disease, Morris states.
With the rise of investment, variety and the availability of plant-based products and meat alternatives, the popularity of consuming less animal produce grows, as does the reduction of livestock emissions. Initiatives such as Meat Free Monday and Veganuary are inspiring populations in the right direction, as the food industry revolutionises itself towards a cleaner future.
For more information please see: Eat Forum, Impossible Foods, Barclays. Also, see the work of plant-based companies such as Beyond Meat, Oatly, Just.