The meat industry could look very different in two decades. A recent report estimates that 60 percent of the meat eaten in 2040 won’t come from animals, but will be vegan or cruelty-free, cultured meat.
Global consultancy firm AT Kearney conducted “expert interviews” to put together the report, which draws attention to the environmental damage caused by the meat industry and the public’s growing concerns over animal welfare.
“The large-scale livestock industry is viewed by many as an unnecessary evil,” the report reads. “With the advantages of novel vegan meat replacements and cultured meat over conventionally produced meat, it is only a matter of time before they capture a substantial market share.”
According to The Guardian, the animal-based meat industry brings in more than $1 trillion a year. However, plant-based meat, dairy, and egg brands are gaining momentum. AT Kearney projects that $1 billion has been invested into vegan products, with some of this financial backing coming from meat companies themselves. Major U.S. meat producer Tyson Foods — which invested in Israeli clean meat company Future Meat Technologies in May 2018 — has said it is necessary to invest in such businesses. “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, right?” said CEO Tom Hayes.
Carsten Gerhardt, a partner at AT Kearney, said the public’s veer toward plant-based lifestyles is “undeniable.”
Gerhardt added, “For passionate meat-eaters, the predicted rise of cultured meat products means that they still get to enjoy the same diet they always have, but without the same environmental and animal cost attached.”
Cultured meat, also called clean meat or slaughter-free meat, is made from real animal cells. Using cellular agriculture technology, scientists can produce meat that is biologically identical to animal-based meat. Food company JUST released a video in 2017 showing how it waited for a chicken’s feather to naturally drop, collected cells from the feather, then used those cells to create slaughter-free chicken nuggets (which they ate whilst the chicken they came from, named Ian, wandered around their feet).
Some believe the estimation that 60 percent of the world’s meat will come from slaughter-free sources is too low. Rosie Wardle of the Jeremy Coller Foundation, a grant-making organization specializing in sustainable farming, said, “The shift to more sustainable patterns of protein consumption is already under way, driven by consumers, investors and entrepreneurs, and even pulling in the world’s biggest meat companies. If anything, predictions that 60% of the world’s ‘meat’ will not come from slaughtered animals in 20 years’ time may be an underestimation.”