Alternative proteins: The sustainable solution?

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Could alterntaive proteins be a more sutainable way to feed a rapidly expanding population?
Could alterntaive proteins be a more sutainable way to feed a rapidly expanding population?

Related tags plant-based alternative protein Sustainability

In this exclusive podcast interview, ReNewFood entrepreneurial lead Matthew Hutchinson and Dr Kang Lan Tee, chemical and biological engineering lecturer at the University of Sheffield, discuss the potential of alternative proteins as a replacement for animal-based agriculture.

“The real benefit from a sustainability point of view is when we compare the ecological footprint of these alternative proteins with traditional animal-based farming techniques,”​ Hutchinson explained.

“At the moment, animal-based farming produces about 60% of the greenhouse gases produced by the food industry. It also uses about 90% of the land mass that’s available for humans, as well as 75% of human’s water footprint goes towards animal-based agriculture.”

Big farms a thing of the past

“Comparing that to alternative proteins, we’re looking at reductions of about 90% of greenhouse gases, a massive drop in terms of the need for water and for the land as well. Obviously, we don’t need these big farms when all we’re making enough protein than can go in vats inside buildings.”

Hutchinson also suggested there was plenty of evidence already out in the world that proved that alternative proteins were already much more ecologically friendly compared to traditional animal-based agriculture.

Following on from Hutchinson’s assessment of alternative proteins, Dr Kang Lan Tee highlighted another challenge intrinsically linked to the production of sustainable food, food security.

‘Squeezed from all sides’

From that perspective we’re really squeezed from all sides in the sense that, in terms of demand, we are facing a growing population where it’s requiring that we produce the amount of food to feed 10bn people by 2030,”​ said Lan Tee.

“Studies have shown that if we want to feed them with the protein diet of a standard north American/European food profile, it’s definitely not going to be sustainable. We can’t have that and still achieve our sustainability development goals.

“From a demand perspective, there clearly is a need for intervention, whether that’s reducing demand or finding an alternative way to do that.”

She also highlighted the production challenges associated with animal agriculture, such as various diseases – swine flu and the recent mass outbreak of bird flu – as well as climate change. Climate change and unpredictable weather in particular have been major contributors to poor harvests each year.

Related topics Plant-Based Environment

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