Two weeks ago, at EAG: London, I was introduced to alternative protein policy. I went into conversations about alt pro policy without really knowing anything about it. I also realised there wasn’t a forum post that would give me examples of what this space looked like beforehand. I thought I’d try and fill that gap. 

This post is a quick look at two concrete policy projects in Europe. Thanks to Alex Holst for helping me learn about them! All mistakes remain my own. 

Public research funding

The first initiative that has had a strong push by people working in European alternative protein policy is to have government-backed funding for open-access alternative protein research. 

Whereas companies who provide private alternative protein financing guard the research that gets produced, public funding for open-access research would give more talented people access to cutting-edge research and new developments, ideally allowing new alt pro companies to get off the ground more quickly and easily. 

It should also allow more types of alternative proteins (like plant-based steak) to work their way into markets. The theory of change with alternative protein is to get consumers who would otherwise eat meat to switch over to plant-based/cultivated meat items. Research [1] (and my anecdotal evidence) suggests that alt pro companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are getting close to hitting the nail on the head in regards to the taste of plant-based burgers. However, there is still an array of meat items that plant-based alternatives can’t compete with and a lack of companies to help fix that. What public funding can do is provide companies with the fuel to accelerate their research and development and allow them to get their products out on shelves at competitive price points. 

Examples of this type of policy initiative

The Dutch government invested €60 million in funding for cultivated meat and precision fermentation.

Horizon Europe made €32 million in funding available for areas including sustainable protein research.

The Spanish Government invested €5.2M in Cultured Meat

Labels

Another policy initiative is to fight for clearer labels of alternative proteins in Europe.

Europe is fairly strict when it comes to advertising and labelling. For example, purely plant-based products cannot, in principle, be marketed with designations such as ‘milk’, ‘cream’, ‘butter’, ‘cheese’ or ‘yoghurt’, which are reserved by EU law for animal products. (See here)

The European Union considered banning plant-based producers from describing their products with words like ‘burgers’ and ‘sausages’. The European Alliance for Plant-based Foods tried to fight this and won! By lobbying against the proposed ban and getting the word out via media outlets across Europe, the ban difference came down to just 48 out of 705 votes, and phrases like “plant-based sausages” – were protected.

Another example of this can be seen with amendment 171.

  1. ^

    I am generalising here. This study was done on participants in the U.S.

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