Adoption of sustainable proteins could elevate UK food self-sufficiency by a third

By William Dodds

- Last updated on GMT

The Green Alliance separates sustainable proteins into plant-based, fermented and cultivated. Credit: Upside Foods
The Green Alliance separates sustainable proteins into plant-based, fermented and cultivated. Credit: Upside Foods

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Sustainable protein sources could offer UK farmers a greater role in feeding the country sustainably, according to the Green Alliance.

New analysis by the charity has revealed that the potential space created by the adoption of more sustainable protein sources would allow farmers in the UK to grow much more of the produce that is currently imported, increasing the UK’s self-sufficiency by a third.

The Green Alliance separates sustainable proteins into three broad categories: plant-based (often using soya and peas), fermented (using protein which is partly or wholly derived from a fermentation process) and cultivated or cell-based (derived from animal cells but grown in a lab).

Currently, the UK depends on imports for 46% of its food supply, even though 73% of land in England alone is farmed. However, a widespread switch to sustainable proteins would provide farms with the space to adapt their businesses to restore nature and mitigate climate change, which in turn would enable the UK to meet its climate and biodiversity restoration targets.

The Green Alliance argues that with the right policy support in place the UK would find space to more than double coverage of semi-natural habitat and farm 39% of land organically by 2050.

In particular, the charity has called for payments to be issued to farmers implementing these environmental services in order to offer them a reliable income source as part of a more diversified business model.

Previous Green Alliance analysis has shown that the market for sustainable sources of protein could be worth £226bn a year by 2035, while the UK industry alone could be worth £6.8bn within the same timeframe.

Commenting on the analysis, senior policy analyst at Green Alliance Lydia Collas said: “The government could turn our looming land crunch into an enormous land dividend, but it must seize the opportunity to support our sustainable proteins industry in the face of international competition.

“By relieving pressure on the UK’s scarce land, sustainable proteins could increase the role of Britain’s farmers in feeding the population in harmony with nature. Our analysis shows that with the right policy support, we'd use more land in the UK to grow food eaten here – as much as 64 per cent, up from 47 per cent today.”

Gareth Morgan, Head of Farming and Land Use Policy at the Soil Association, added: “Ensuring that dietary patterns across Europe come into line with environmental limits is crucial, not least tackling the huge land use footprint of industrially reared meat with its huge dependence on imported feed. It is good to see this report pose the question of how this can be done.”

In other news, ‘Modern agriculture is a broken system and we want to fix that’: Vegan Food Group

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