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Prime Minister’s climate plan says UK can lead the world in ‘alternative proteins’


Farm bosses have expressed anger at Boris Johnson for urging Britain to go vegetarian in its desperate bid to cut emissions.

Livestock groups criticized the prime minister for failing to consider the long-term health implications for people by trying to get them to eat ‘alternative proteins’.

They warned the government and policymakers not to ‘undermine confidence in British food’ as there was an opportunity to send a positive message after Brexit and Covid.

Johnson said the UK could become a world leader in the production of ‘alternative proteins’ as part of a global effort to eat less meat.

The Prime Minister today published his highly anticipated Net Zero strategy, which sets out how the country will achieve a target of net-zero emissions by 2050.

Food production is one of the areas ministers are focusing on and the document suggests that non-meat products could soon become a boom industry.

It states that it “takes time” for so-called “alternative proteins” to capture a “significant market share.”

But it predicts that this increase will “align with consumer food trends” and that the UK’s “vibrant and growing domestic market” could then become “another major UK food export competing internationally”.

It comes after the publication of the independent National Food Strategy report earlier this year, which called for a sharp cut in meat consumption.

It said meat consumption must be reduced by 30 percent by 2030 to reduce methane emissions from cattle and sheep that contribute to global warming, and to clear land for absorbing carbon and boosting wildlife.

The Prime Minister today published his highly anticipated Net Zero strategy, which sets out how the country will achieve a target of net-zero emissions by 2050.

It states that it takes 'time' for so-called 'alternative proteins' to capture a 'significant market share'

It states that it takes ‘time’ for so-called ‘alternative proteins’ to capture a ‘significant market share’

From insects to lab-grown meat: what are ‘alternative proteins’?

What are they?

Alternative proteins have been one of the hottest topics in the food industry in recent years.

They refer to protein sources that do not have to come from an animal – neither through meat nor through milk.

Some come from insects, others from plants, and others are grown in a lab.

Which are the most popular?

Plant-based proteins are by far the most popular. They make up more than 60 percent of the non-meat market.

Within this group, soy is the most commonly eaten, but it is losing popularity due to allergens.

Pea has become extremely popular, while other new sources include fava beans, chickpeas, chia and quinoa.

Why are people switching to ‘alternative proteins’?

Most people make the jump for health reasons.

But others choose it for what they consider to be ethical reasons, which don’t require animals to be killed or milked to get the nutrients.

Health reasons include muscle building, muscle maintenance, weight loss and weight maintenance.

How many have already made the jump?

More than a fifth – 22 percent – of the UK have suggested they eat more protein from alternative sources than from meat.

For Millennials and iGeneration, this shoots up to 25 percent.

Source: University of Nottingham

Chief Executive of the National Sheep Association Phil Stocker said: “While much of COP26 will be devoted to global warming and wildlife restoration, the NSA has consistently said that the planet’s sustainability should be measured by a much broader set of statistics.

“We have to work harder to consider the interrelationships and trade-offs of everything we do.

‘It’s easy to say, for example, that we should stop eating meat and phase out the UK’s livestock industry, but do we really know what impact that would have on people’s long-term health?

‘Do we know what impact a huge increase in protein crop production would have on land use around the world? Or how the loss of grasslands in the UK would affect our wildlife?

‘Britain cannot adopt exacting standards for environmental protection and animal welfare, but simply import food that does not meet our high standards or we will achieve nothing on a global scale.

“Things may look good within our horizon, but what about beyond? Out of sight out of mind?’

The NSA said confidence in British food should not be undermined by the government or policymakers.

It said Brexit and Covid have led people to value what they eat more, which the group believes is an opportunity to support good animal welfare.

Mr Stocker added: ‘We can only be a global leader in raising standards, crucial if we are to meet COP26 interests, if we negatively impact things around the world.’

Christopher Dodds, executive secretary of the Livestock Auctioneers’ Association, told MailOnline: “A balanced diet includes the consumption of red meat.”

He added: ‘It is wrong for’ [Boris] to say it is not without understanding what people eat.’

Mr Johnson’s Net Zero strategy states: ‘Significant market share for innovations such as alternative proteins will take time to materialise, but will align with consumer nutritional trends, and the UK already has a vibrant and growing domestic market that could become another major British food exporter competing internationally.

“These and other new food production methods could create significant opportunities to further promote high-quality British food internationally.”

Henry Dimbleby, the government’s food czar, published his report on the National Food Strategy in July.

That document warned that “our diets are destroying the environment…and that in turn this threatens our food security.”

The strategy said the agricultural sector must become carbon neutral if the UK is to meet its broader target of net zero emissions by 2050.

It said the UK must ‘invest in the latest science’ to ‘iincrease yields without polluting the land’ and ‘develop new proteins’.

It warned: ‘Careful husbandry can be a boon for the environment, but our current appetite for meat is unsustainable: 85 per cent of the total land producing UK food is used to graze livestock or produce crops to feed to animals . We need some of that land.’

The report said the stated target of a 30 percent reduction in meat consumption over 10 years “is significant and will not be easily achieved.”

A “meat tax” has been suggested as a possible way to change people’s eating habits, but the food czar’s report said “this would be politically impossible.”

Instead, it argued that the government would be “better to encourage consumers to change their habits while investing in methane reduction projects and developing alternative proteins.”


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