The popularity of alternative meat has greatly increased over the last few years. Reflecting this, its global value is estimated at US$4.4 billion in 2018 with growth forecasted at a 6.32% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) towards 2023, which is evidence of innovation within the sector.

What future for lab-grown meat?

Alternative meat comprises primarily of plant-based alternatives but lab-grown meat methods are currently in the pipeline. The question is, how successful will these be in the long-term? It is unlikely that lab-based meats will be as popular as plant-based alternatives due to consumer sentiment.

According to GlobalData’s 2017 Q4 Consumer Survey report, 38% of global respondents would never eat ‘vegan meat’ that is ‘produced in a lab without harming any animals’. This finding demonstrates a lack of trust towards lab-grown meat and to overcome this, companies will need to be transparent and offer products at affordable prices. In comparison, plant-based meat is not scrutinised by ethical concerns of consumers and will likely continue to see growth and innovation, but new entries in the market will need to find their own niche to avoid over-saturation.

Aleph Farms and Memphis Meats are the important lab-grown meat companies that use isolated animals cells and regenerative tissue engineering to create ‘slaughter-free’ meat. Such methods are seen to have reduced negative socio-economic problems that are associated with traditional meat. Furthermore, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) concluded that lab-meat does not require the same laws as raised-meat allowing more freedom in manufacturing and distribution.

What future for plant-based meats?

Perhaps the better alternative would be plant-based meats, pioneered by the two key plant-based companies, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. Both have seen success across Europe and the US with the Beyond Burger available throughout Tesco stores and in TGI Fridays. The Impossible Whopper is available across burger king chains throughout the US with a launch in the UK at the end of 2019. These alternative burgers use a combination of plant proteins, with the Impossible Burger using heme, a molecule found in animal muscle tissue and in plants, to replicate ‘bleeding’. Beyond Meat uses beetroot to produce a similar effect.

By 2050, National Geographic has stated the global population will grow by more than two billion people, highlighting the importance of sustainable and environmental food manufacturing. Considering the notion that new alternative eating habits are important to consumers, alternative meats are seen as one step towards these newly adopted habits, which is supported by research published in the journal Science (by scientists Poore and Nemecek) stating that 60% of agriculture greenhouse gas emissions are due to traditional meat consumption.

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