This special Frontiers report from the UN environment program provides a discussion on the potential environmental, health, social and animal welfare implications of novel alternatives to animal products, including plant-based products, cultivated meat, and fermentation-derived products.
This special Frontiers report from the UN environment program provides a detailed discussion on the potential of novel alternatives to animal products, including plant-based products, cultivated meat, and fermentation-derived products. The report covers a wide range of topics including the current state of global meat production and its impact on the environment, human health, socio economic dynamics and animal welfare, emerging technologies and alternative production methods, and a global perspective on policy and regulation efforts.
There is a clear emphasis throughout the report on the lack of data and research to make accurate market predictions and claims of the benefits of alternative meats. However the report does highlight the apparent indication of improved environmental outcomes and animal welfare compared to conventional animal-sourced foods (ASF).
The report frames novel technologies and meat alternatives as viable and important. It especially emphasises the need for rapidly addressing the triple environmental crisis and claims that other approaches including regenerative livestock farms, feed additives, encouraging reduced meat consumption, and discouraging meat consumption through policy levers are slow and limited.
The report concludes by highlighting key research gaps and viable policy pathways to promote alternatives to ASF in regionally specific contexts. It notes the critical importance of correct policy implementation and ethical considerations to secure novel ASF alternatives that contribute to a more sustainable, just, and healthy food system.
Figure 1: UN (2023). Flow diagram of venture investment from top contributing countries.
This report focuses on the potential environmental, health, social and animal welfare implications of the uptake of novel meat and dairy alternatives, in particular novel plant-based, fermentation-derived and cultivated products. A team of interdisciplinary experts has assessed the available evidence on the impacts of these alternatives in comparison with their conventional counterparts, identifying pertinent considerations for policymakers involved in regulating, investing in or providing other support for novel meat and dairy products and highlighting research gaps.
UN, 2023. What's Cooking? An assessment of potential impacts of selected novel alternatives to conventional animal products. UN.