Putting intensive farming out to pasture

Think tank: Social Market Foundation

Author(s): Jake Shepherd; Aveek Bhattacharya

November 13, 2023

This report from UK think tank the Social Market Foundation looks at whether alternative proteins can reduce farmed animal suffering.

The market for meat alternatives has grown rapidly over the last decade, yet they still only account for 1% of the global meat market. This SMF report, the third and final instalment of a series, investigates the potential for further growth in the alternative meat market, and how far these products can drive a meaningful shift in eating habits. Although the market for meat alternatives has grown by 400% in the UK in the last decade, a decline in sales in 2022 has stalled momentum. Experts expect that alternative proteins could make up around a third of the meat market by 2040, but predictions vary wildly, from 3% to 70%.

This growth could have significant benefits for animal welfare, potentially resulting in 300 million fewer animals being raised in factory farms and slaughtered every year, as the evidence suggests that consumers of alternative proteins buy less meat. Most experts agreed that supply-side improvements – making products cheaper and tastier – are the key to realise the potential of alternative proteins and grow the market. This would require public and private investment in research and development to spur innovation, though there is no guarantee that this investment will see a return. Experts also felt that streamlining regulation for novel foods would be the most effective government intervention to grow the alternative meat market, with informational measures seen as less effective.