The UK risks falling behind China and the EU in making and selling meat substitutes and other alternative proteins, due to the lack of government strategy, a new report has claimed.
Thinktank The Social Market Foundation warned Britain’s productive capacity was likely to lag behind other advanced economies, such as China, Denmark and the Netherlands, which had all adopted new research and policies to support the development of cultivated meat.
“The government has pointed to alternative proteins as an archetypal Brexit opportunity. But current inertia in Whitehall risks squandering opportunities for British businesses,” said SMF research associate Linus Pardoe.
The SMF said UK alternative protein policy was “underdeveloped and underfunded” despite rising interest from consumers to eat alternative proteins. It calculated that vegetable and plant-based alternatives were equivalent to 4% of total meat sales in 2021, worth around £1.5bn.
“Sustainable proteins will be a big part of British diets over the coming decade, and this is a real opportunity for Britain’s leading food industry, entrepreneurs and scientists to come together to make alternatives affordable, tasty, and healthy,” said Pardoe. “At the moment, the government isn’t doing enough to light the fires of innovation and drive a consumer-led transition to greener diets.”
The report put the blame at the doors of Defra, the Department for Business and the Cabinet Office, none of which took “ownership” of policy on this topic. The report called on one government department to take on ownership and create a strategy within the next 12 months to “catalyse a consumer-led transition in dietary behaviours”.
This is not the first time these concerns have been raised, with British cultured meat startup Ivy Farm Technologies calling on the FSA to adopt a more “nimble” approach to regulatory approval last year.
The report was sponsored by Impossible Foods, which recently launched its chicken nugget alternative and sausage patty into the UK.
“The rapid development and adoption of plant-based proteins is an extraordinary opportunity for positive, consumer-driven change, and it has the potential to be a powerful part of the UK’s ambitious goal of reaching net zero by 2050,” said Pat Brown, Impossible Foods founder and chief visionary officer.
“UK policymakers should not overlook the power of the food system as both a major economic growth driver and a solution to the world’s climate issues.”