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About the Author: Ana Díaz

Innovation Consultant - Ana holds a Degree in Biotechnology from the Polytechnic University of Madrid (ES) and a MSc specialized in Industrial Biotechnology from the Autonomous University of Madrid (ES). In October 2022, Ana will continue its education in circular economy with a Master’s Degree in Circular Economy and Innovation at Valencian International University (VIU University). Before joining Innovarum, she has worked in different companies as an Innovation Consultant in the United Kingdom and Barcelona. Thanks to her education and international experience, she has developed great passion for innovation as a way to address current environmental challenges.

Alternative proteins are defined as plant-based and food technology alternatives to animal protein, thus including food products made from plants, fungus (mushrooms), ocean, insects and even cultured (lab-grown) meat. In this article we will discuss if Alternative Proteins can bring sustainable and healthy diets.

The need to shift our diet

Animal based products (e.g., meat, fish, dairy products) are present and important in our current diet, as they are an important source of proteins and vitamins. However, according to future predictions, as human population is growing and expect to reach 9.1 billion people by 2050[1], global meat production is expected to double by 2050. Furthermore, there are some environmental issues associated such as GHG emissions (20% of global GHG emissions)[2], land degradation (i.e., 44% of land deterioration), water consumption and methane emissions (35–40% of methane emissions worldwide. Moreover, high content of animal-based products such as red meat has been associated with higher risks of cardiovascular diseases and livestock is a common cause of infectious diseases, especially in developing countries.

For these reasons, meeting the increasing food demand to feed the growing population with the current animal-based systems would increase environmental issues. Therefore, a dietary shift is highly needed to ensure food availability, environmental sustainability and food safety.

Sustainable advantages of alternative proteins

  • Reduction in GHG emissions: alternative proteins have smaller GHG footprints as they do not require raising livestock and growing crops for animal feeding. If alternative proteins rise to half the global protein market, including dairy, they would mitigate 5 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually[5].
  • Water efficiency: a water reduction of 66%-99% could be achieved as alternative proteins do not need to grow livestock with its associated water consumption (e.g., producing 1 kg of beef consumes 15,415 L of water[6]).
  • Land efficiency: direct use of resources thus requiring much less land and they do not require space to grow livestock and growing crops for animal feeding.
  • Reduction in air and water pollution: thanks to avoiding methane emissions and animal waste, a significant improvement in air and water pollution could be achieved.
  • Food safety: reducing direct contact with animals, alternative proteins drastically reduce the risks of zoonotic disease emergence and exposure[7].

Below you can find some examples of advantages of alternative proteins against conventional meat products:

Figure 1. Comparative Life Cycle Assessments between alternative products against conventional products (Source: The Good Food Institute).

About LIKE-A-PRO

The LIKE-A-PRO project (No. 101083961), funded by the European Union under the topic “HORIZON-CL6-2022-FARM2FORK-01-07” aim to facilitate sustainable and healthy diets by shifting promising alternative proteins and products from niche to mainstream from 7 promising alternative protein sources.

The project brings together 41 partners, who are key representatives along the entire alternative protein value chain (protein producers, ingredient & product developers, culinary centres, and food clusters), scientists and market & communication experts in a trans-disciplinary consortium from 17 countries coordinated by the technological centre CNTA.

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