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Have we reached ‘peak meat’?

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Meat consumption in developed countries show signs of having peaked amid health scares and environmental concerns, while vegan foods command larger sections of supermarket shelves.

EMIKO TERAZONO: ‘Meat consumption in developed countries show signs of having peaked amid health scares and environmental and sustainability concerns. It has enormous implications for the planet, the $US1.2 trillion ($1.7 trillion) livestock meat market and individual traders… “I see it as a natural development in the food industry,” says Paul Martinelli, managing director of the meat supplier that has been working out of Smithfield since the 1980s. “There is a lot of interest in the product and our clients are asking us about it. They may choose to do it more in January and February than in the run-up to Christmas but we are having the discussions.”…

Consumption of beef and pork has stopped growing in the US and Europe while vegan and vegetarian foods command larger sections of supermarket shelves. Research from Whole Foods Market in the UK shows that about 15 per cent of the Christmas dinners served in the country two weeks ago were meat-free… Food companies and restaurants are responding with new launches of meat free foods, while meat processors such as Tyson Foods and Maple Leaf and multinationals such as Nestlé and Unilever have introduced their own alternative proteins. Burger King is offering customers plant-based Whoppers while McDonald’s is trialling vegan burger options.

With meat consumption — especially beef — increasingly seen as a contributory factor to carbon emissions, deforestation and high water usage, a key question among food experts, environmentalists and agricultural economists is when “peak meat” — where consumption hits a ceiling — will be reached… “Growth is slowing considerably in the OECD area. We are coming closer to peak meat [in some of those countries]” says Josef Schmidhuber, deputy director of the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation’s trade and markets division. “In India and Latin America, don’t expect rapid growth [either]. Also in Africa, consumption growth has not been as rapid as we thought. Even for poultry consumption, future growth will be below past rates, in parts considerably so”…

“Animal agriculture is a huge part of the global carbon footprint. We are coming to a turning point where companies [and] investors understand the importance of carbon emissions,” says Peter van der Werf, engagement specialist, at Dutch asset manager Robeco, which has about €200 billion ($323 billion) of assets under management. “I won’t go as far as saying [meat is comparable to coal], but you do see a parallel in that they share a high carbon footprint which has become a liability for their business models”… The trend highlights the challenge facing the meat industry: in the US and Europe consumers may not all be turning vegan but many are eating less meat and boosting the fortunes of alternative protein providers such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meats’.  SOURCE…

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