Animal product alternatives

Parent Topic: Animal welfare

Animal product alternatives (or alternative proteins) are meat, eggs, and dairy products not made from living animals. Cheap, tasty, and healthy alternatives can decrease animal product consumption. This would decrease farmed animal suffering and reduce the negative environmental impact of agriculture.[1]

There are two broad categories of alternatives:

  • Plant-based products made from plants and/or fungi. Plant-based meats and milks are already stocked in supermarkets, on the menu in some restaurants and fast-food chains. Estimates suggest that global plant-based meat retail value increased from $2.8 billion in 2017 to $5.6 billion in 2021.[2]
  • Cultivated meat is real animal meat produced by cultivating animal cells directly rather than raising an entire animal. Currently, such meat is significantly more expensive than animal meat and production quantities are very small. There has been a lot of disagreement about when such products might become cost-competitive.[3] Forecasts by Rethink Priorities suggest limited production through 2050. Many cultured meat companies make much more optimistic claims but so far many of their predictions turned out to be wrong.[4]
    • Acellular agriculture, or fermentation, is the process of using microorganisms to produce proteins and fats (as opposed to whole animal cells), e.g. for dairy and eggs. The technical challenges in fermentation appear more surmountable than in cultivated meat.[5]

These categories are fairly distinct in terms of scientific approach and technical skills required. However, most products are likely to involve a blend of these technologies.

For-profit investment in animal product alternatives has been increasing. According to Good Food Institute reports, in just 2021, plant-based meat, seafood, egg, and dairy companies raised $1.9 billion dollars, cultivated meat companies raised $1.38 billion dollars, and alternative protein fermentation companies raised $1.69 billion dollars. In all three categories, investments in 2021 were much higher than in years prior.

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