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Could consumption of insects, cultured meat or imitation meat reduce global agricultural land use?


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Animal products, i.e. meat, milk and eggs, provide an important component in global diets, but livestock dominate agricultural land use by area and are a major source of greenhouse gases. Cultural and personal associations with animal product consumption create barriers to moderating consumption, and hence reduced environmental impacts. Here we review alternatives to conventional animal products, including cultured meat, imitation meat and insects (i.e. entomophagy), and explore the potential change in global agricultural land requirements associated with each alternative. Stylised transformative consumption scenarios where half of current conventional animal products are substituted to provide at least equal protein and calories are considered. The analysis also considers and compares the agricultural land area given shifts between conventional animal product consumption. The results suggest that imitation meat and insects have the highest land use efficiency, but the land use requirements are only slightly greater for eggs and poultry meat. The efficiency of insects and their ability to convert agricultural by-products and food waste into food, suggests further research into insect production is warranted. Cultured meat does not appear to offer substantial benefits over poultry meat or eggs, with similar conversion efficiency, but higher direct energy requirements. Comparison with the land use savings from reduced consumer waste, including over-consumption, suggests greater benefits could be achieved from alternative dietary transformations considered. We conclude that although a diet with lower rates of animal product consumption is likely to create the greatest reduction in agricultural land, a mix of smaller changes in consumer behaviour, such as replacing beef with chicken, reducing food waste and potentially introducing insects more commonly into diets, would also achieve land savings and a more sustainable food system.
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Global Food Security
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Could consumption of insects, cultured meat or imitation meat reduce global
agricultural land use?
Peter Alexander
, Calum Brown
, Almut Arneth
, Clare Dias
, John Finnigan
Dominic Moran
, Mark D.A. Rounsevell
School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, Drummond Street, Edinburgh EH8 9XP, UK
Land Economy and Environment Research Group, SRUC, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JG, UK
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research, Atmospheric Environmental Research (IMK-IFU), Kreuzeckbahnstr. 19, 82467
Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
The Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research A partnership between CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research,
Canberra, Australia
Environment Department, University of York, York YO10 5NG, UK
Land use
Animal products
Dietary change
Cultured meat
Animal products, i.e. meat, milk and eggs, provide an important component in global diets, but livestock
dominate agricultural land use by area and are a major source of greenhouse gases. Cultural and personal
associations with animal product consumption create barriers to moderating consumption, and hence reduced
environmental impacts. Here we review alternatives to conventional animal products, including cultured meat,
imitation meat and insects (i.e. entomophagy), and explore the potential change in global agricultural land
requirements associated with each alternative. Stylised transformative consumption scenarios where half of
current conventional animal products are substituted to provide at least equal protein and calories are
considered. The analysis also considers and compares the agricultural land area given shifts between
conventional animal product consumption. The results suggest that imitation meat and insects have the highest
land use eciency, but the land use requirements are only slightly greater for eggs and poultry meat. The
eciency of insects and their ability to convert agricultural by-products and food waste into food, suggests
further research into insect production is warranted. Cultured meat does not appear to oer substantial benets
over poultry meat or eggs, with similar conversion eciency, but higher direct energy requirements.
Comparison with the land use savings from reduced consumer waste, including over-consumption, suggests
greater benets could be achieved from alternative dietary transformations considered. We conclude that
although a diet with lower rates of animal product consumption is likely to create the greatest reduction in
agricultural land, a mix of smaller changes in consumer behaviour, such as replacing beef with chicken, reducing
food waste and potentially introducing insects more commonly into diets, would also achieve land savings and a
more sustainable food system.
1. Introduction
Livestock provides a quarter of all the protein (and 15% of energy)
consumed in food, but also creates substantial environmental impacts
(FAO, 2012; Herrero et al., 2016). The area of global pasture is more
than twice that of cropland, with livestock animals additionally
consuming around a third of the crops harvested as feed (FAO, 2006).
Despite rises in crop yields and in the eciency of livestock production,
global agricultural land area has been expanding, increasing by 464
Mha between 1961 and 2011 (Alexander et al., 2015). Land use change
in recent decades has accounted for 1012% of total anthropogenic
carbon dioxide emissions, and a third since 1850 (Houghton et al.,
2012; Le Quéré et al., 2015). Livestock production also contributes to
atmospheric greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions, due to methane from
enteric fermentation (presently 2.1 Gt CO
eq year
(Gerber et al.,
2013)), and nitrous oxide emissions from fertiliser use on pasture and
croplands in fodder production (Smith et al., 2014). In total, livestock is
responsible for 12% of global anthropogenic GHG emissions (Havlík
et al., 2014). A larger global population consuming a diet richer in
meat, eggs and dairy (Kearney, 2010; Keyzer et al., 2005; Popkin et al.,
Received 13 January 2017; Received in revised form 29 March 2017; Accepted 8 April 2017
Corresponding author at: School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, Drummond Street, Edinburgh EH8 9XP, UK.
E-mail address: (P. Alexander).
Global Food Security xxx (xxxx) xxx–xxx
2211-9124/ © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (
Please cite this article as: Alexander, P., Global Food Security (2017),
1999; Tilman et al., 2011) has meant that agricultural land use change
in the past 50 years has been dominated by the expansion of livestock
production (Alexander et al., 2015). Besides the direct GHG emissions,
agriculture also has large indirect emissions (e.g. from agrochemicals
production and fossil fuel used) (Smith and Gregory, 2013). The
combination of land use change and other emissions increases the
share of agriculture in all global anthropogenic GHG emissions to
between 17% and 32% (Smith and Gregory, 2013). Therefore, changing
demands on agricultural production, and in particular for animal
products (i.e. meat, milk and eggs), has the potential to substantially
alter GHG emissions (Bustamante et al., 2014; Havlík et al., 2014).
Additionally, the sparing of agricultural land provides options for
further climate change mitigation measures, including aorestation or
bioenergy (Humpenöder et al., 2014).
The projected rise in global population and higher per capita rates
of animal product consumption, arising from higher incomes and
urbanisation, suggests that livestock production will continue to
increase (Tilman et al., 2011). Changes in production practices and
animal genetics that increase eciencies may help to oset some of the
potential land use and associated environmental impacts (Havlík et al.,
2014; Le Cotty and Dorin, 2012). Nevertheless, demand-side measures
to reduce animal product consumption may be necessary to meet
climate change targets (UNFCC, 2015), while helping to achieve food
security (Bajželj et al., 2014; Lamb et al., 2016; Meadu et al., 2015;
Smil, 2013). High levels of meat consumption are also detrimental to
human health, with links to obesity, cardiovascular diseases and cancer
(Bouvard et al., 2015; Hu, 2011; NCD Risk Factor Collaboration, 2016;
Popkin and Gordon-Larsen, 2004). Despite both the health and
environmental benets, changing consumer preferences towards a
low meat diet is dicult because of cultural, social and personal
associations with meat consumption (Graça et al., 2015; Macdiarmid
et al., 2016). Although there is some evidence for increasing rates of
vegetarianism and reduced meat diets in western countries (Leahy
et al., 2011; Vinnari et al., 2010), the global average per capita rate of
animal product consumption has continued to increase (FAOSTAT,
Studies of the food system that include the impact of dietary change
typically assume the continuation of existing consumption patterns and
income and price elasticity relationships (e.g. Engström et al., 2016a,
2016b;Schmitz et al., 2014;Tilman et al., 2011), implicitly discounting
the possibility of major shocks or transformative changes in diets. There
has also been an increasing number of studies considering the impact of
alternative assumptions regarding future diets, such as lower animal
product consumption, healthy diets, vegetarianism or veganism, e.g.
(Bajželj et al., 2014; Erb et al., 2016; Haberl et al., 2011; Mora et al.,
2016; Popp et al., 2010; Stehfest et al., 2009).
However, technology changes or radical alteration of consumer
preferences, which could be transformative for the food system, remain
unexplored. New technologies raise the possibility of supplying high
quality food from novel sources, e.g. cultured meat, also known as in
vitro meat (Thornton, 2010). Also, behaviour, preferences and social
norms change over time, such that food previously considered unac-
ceptable or undesirable (e.g. insects, in western countries) could
become a more common part of future diets (van Huis, 2013). There
are historical precedents for foods becoming acceptable after long
periods of rejection; for example, tomatoes in Britain were widely
viewed with suspicion and dismissed for over 200 years (Bir, 2014; K.
A. Smith, 2013). Similarly, lobster in America was initially a poverty
food eaten by slaves and prisoners, and used as fertiliser and sh bait,
due to their abundance (Dembosky, 2006). It wasnt until the late
nineteenth century that lobster developed a status as a luxury food,
supported by the expansion of the US railway network giving access to
new markets (Townsend, 2012). But while alternative food sources may
become technologically feasible or publically acceptable in the future,
their potential contributions to sustainability remains unclear.
This study addresses this research gap by reviewing and comparing
the potentially transformative alternatives to conventional animal
products, including cultured meat, imitation meat and insects, and
consider the implications for global agricultural land use requirements
given widespread adoption. The approach is explorative, rather than
predictive, and assumes half of existing animal products are substituted
by each alternative food, to provide at least equal energy and protein.
The objective is to compare the alternatives on an equal basis and to
assess their potential to reduce agricultural land requirements, and
contribute to food system sustainability. To allow comparison with
more typical dietary change, several other scenarios were also included
using the same methodology. These scenarios include shifts in conven-
tional animal product consumption, changes to high and low animal
product diets (based on average consumption in India and the USA),
and reductions in consumer waste. The focus is on animal products due
to their dominance in the food system for land use and environmental
impacts (Herrero et al., 2016), and because of their relative ineciency
in converting inputs into human-edible food (FAO, 2006; Mottet et al.,
2017). The premise is that due to the cultural and personal associations
with animal product consumption (Graça et al., 2015; Macdiarmid
et al., 2016), consumers with higher incomes continue to eat large
quantities of animal products and consumers currently eating at lower
rates will increase their consumption as incomes increase. This
assumption combined with population growth, also underlies the
projections of substantial increases (from 76% to 133%) in global
animal product demand (Alexandratos and Bruinsma, 2012; Bodirsky
et al., 2015). Therefore, alternatives that mimic aspects of these
products in a manner that is acceptable to consumers need to be
explored for environmental sustainability.
2. Alternatives to current animal products
There are several alternatives to existing animal products as food
protein and energy sources:
2.1. Insects
Edible insects have the potential to become a major source of
human nutrition, and can be produced more eciently than conven-
tional livestock, i.e. in terms of converting biomass into protein or
calories (Tabassum-Abbasi and Abbasi, 2016;van Huis, 2013). They are
high in fat, protein and micronutrients (Persijn and Charrondiere, 2014;
Rumpold and Schlüter, 2013), and can be produced with lower levels of
GHG emissions and water consumption (van Huis, 2013). The eciency
of insects to convert feed into edible food is in part due to the higher
fraction of insect consumed (up to 100%), compared to conventional
meat (e.g. 40% of live animal weight is consumed with cattle). Insects
are poikilothermic, so they do not use their metabolism to heat or cool
themselves, reducing energy usage. They tend to have higher fecundity
than conventional livestock, potentially producing thousands of o-
spring (Premalatha et al., 2011). Eciency is also increased by rapid
growth rates and the ability of insects to reach maturity in days rather
than months or years.
Isotope analysis of bones indicates that insectivorous diets are
entrenched in human evolution (De-Magistris et al., 2015; Ramos-
Elorduy, 2009), and a variety of species are currently consumed
(> 2000 species (Rumpold and Schlüter, 2013)) across many regions
of the world (119 countries (Rumpold and Schlüter, 2013)). But issue of
limited consumer acceptability is prevalent particularly in western
countries. These are also the countries with high animal product
consumption rates per capita, and are therefore where a switch from
animal product to insect consumption would have the greatest impact.
There are already signs that consumer attitudes in developed countries
such as the USA and the UK may be starting to change (Jamieson,
2015), and there may be less of a barrier to including insect-derived
materials in other products, for example in powdered form (Little,
2015). However, in some jurisdictions, there are legal barriers. For
P. Alexander et al. Global Food Security xxx (xxxx) xxx–xxx
example, within the European Union, regulations on novel food and the
legal status of insect-based foods means that insects cannot be
processed, and must be marketed whole (De-Magistris et al., 2015).
2.2. Cultured meat
Cultured meat, also termed in vitro, lab-based, or synthetic meat,
refers to meat produced outside of a living animal. The meat is
produced by culturing animal stem cells in a medium that contains
nutrients and energy sources required for the division and dierentia-
tion of the cells into muscle cells that form into tissue (Bhat et al.,
2015), with commercial scale production anticipated by 2021
(Verstrate, 2016). The tissue produced can be separated for further
processing and packaging. The amount of nutrients and energy needed
may be relatively small, as only muscle tissue develops, without the
need for biological structures such as respiratory, digestive or nervous
systems, bones or skin (Bhat et al., 2014). Rapid growth rates mean that
tissue is maintained for a shorter time than for animal rearing, further
reducing required inputs.
Cell and tissue culture are currently not ecient processes in terms
of energy, water and feedstock expenditure, and have been primarily
employed in scientic and medical applications (Moritz et al., 2015).
The nancial and sustainability advantages are also unclear as the
reductions in some inputs may be oset by the extra costs of a stricter
hygiene regime and other energy inputs (Bhat et al., 2014). The cell
culture medium can be produced from materials of animal origin (e.g.
bovine serum), but this defeats many of the sustainability benets of
cultured meat (Bhat et al., 2014). Although suitable culture medium
can be produced from non-animal sources (e.g. hydrolysed cyanobac-
teria, sometimes known as blue-green algae (Tuomisto and de Mattos,
2011) and Maitake mushroom extract (Bhat et al., 2014)), an ecient
process to manufacture animal-free media is still viewed as a major
challenge, and a barrier to cultured meat adoption (Mattick et al.,
2015a). Consumer perceptions are also a potential barrier (Hocquette,
2016). The product needs to be of suciently similar taste, texture and
appearance to livestock meat for wide acceptance, and this is currently
dicult to achieve (Moritz et al., 2015).
2.3. Imitation meat
Imitation meat or meat analogues attempt to mimic specic types of
meat, including the aesthetic qualities (e.g. texture, avour and
appearance) and the nutrient qualities, without using meat products.
Soy based products, such as tofu or tempeh, are perhaps the most
widely known imitation meats (Malav et al., 2015). Tofu is soybean
curd, made from coagulated soy milk, and has been prepared and
consumed in Asia for centuries. It can be further prepared to approx-
imate meat products in avour and texture, e.g. with avouring added
to make it taste like chicken, beef, lamb, ham or sausage (Malav et al.,
2015). Soy and tofu contain high levels of protein, while being low in
fat (Sahirman and Ardiansyah, 2014). Beef and soy have a similar
Protein DigestibilityCorrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS), indicating
that they have similar protein values in human nutrition (Schaafsma,
2000). More recent imitation meats include mycoprotein-based Quorn
(Finnigan et al., 2010), and textured vegetable protein, again often
made from soy.
2.4. Aquaculture
Global aquaculture is already a major source of food, and has grown
substantially over the past 50 years to produce around 61.9 Mt in 2011
(FAO, 2016), which is similar to the quantity of bovine meat
(FAOSTAT, 2015b). As a global per capita average, protein from sh
contribute 10% (2.72 g/capita/day) of that from meat, milk and eggs;
27.69 g/capita/day (FAOSTAT, 2015b), around half of which is from
aquaculture. Asia dominates aquaculture production (accounting for 89
per cent by mass), with 62.4% produced in China alone, due to pre-
existing aquaculture practices and a relaxed regulatory framework
(Bostock et al., 2010). Carnivorous sh, such as salmon, can consume
up to 5 times the quantity of sh (as feed) than they ultimately provide
(Naylor et al., 2009). Therefore, limitations on the sustainable sourcing
of feed represents a barrier to increases in farmed carnivorous sh
(Diana, 2009), making substantial substitution with existing animal
products less likely. This issue is less acute for herbivorous and
omnivorous species, as they have much lower sh-to-shconversion
ratios, e.g. carp currently has a ratio of 0.1, with further reductions
predicted (Tacon and Metian, 2008)assh derived feed consumption is
not essential for their nutrition (Bostock et al., 2010). Freshwater
aquacultural systems dominate production, accounting for around two
thirds of all outputs from aquaculture. The main species are herbivor-
ous or omnivorous, with largest production from carp, although tilapia
and catsh production have increased more recently (Bostock et al.,
3. Comparison of land requirements
To provide an assessment of the consequences of adoption of above
alternative protein sources on agricultural land requirements separate
scenarios for each were considered, assuming replacement of 50% of
current animal products. These scenarios assume that perceptions and
diets alter over time, such that current animal product (i.e. meat, milk
and eggs) consumption declines and is substituted by a replacement
food that provides nutritional content at least as equal in both energy
and protein terms. The 50% replacement assumption is largely arbi-
trary, but is simply used as a reference point against which to compare
alternative diets. It would have been equally accurate to select an
alternative value, and the relative changes between these substitution
scenarios would not have been impacted, i.e. the changes would scale
proportionately. Further scenarios considered conventional animal
products in the same manner (i.e. 50% replacement), to provide a basis
for comparison with the transformative scenarios. The scales of animal
product substitution tested is not highly relevant, but rather the
comparative outcomes between the substitution scenarios. The scenar-
ios of reduced consumer waste (including both food waste and
consumption in excess of nutritional requirements) and global adoption
of the current average per capita diets in India and the United States of
America were also constructed. These scenarios are not chosen to be
equally probable or desirable, but rather to provide a broad comparison
between the impacts of potential transformations in consumer beha-
3.1. Human appropriation of land for food
Results are expressed using the Human Appropriation of Land for
Food (HALF) index (Alexander et al., 2016), giving the percentage of
global land surface required to supply the world's population with a
particular diet, under current production eciencies. The baseline
2011 HALF index was calculated from FAO country-level panel data for
crop areas, production quantities, commodity uses and nutrient values
(FAOSTAT, 2015a, 2015c, 2015d, 2015e, 2015f, 2015g). Following the
approach of Alexander et al. (2016), 90 commodities (50 primary crops
that are directly grown, 32 processed commodities derived from them,
and 8 livestock products (2016)), representing 99.4% of global food
consumption by caloric value, were considered.
The areas associated with primary crops production were deter-
mined using yields adjusted to include losses in storage and transport
(overall around 5%), calculated by pro rata allocation of these losses to
subsequent uses. These yields were multiplied by the quantity of each
commodity used as food for human consumption, processing and
animal feed (FAOSTAT, 2015a, 2015d) to obtain an associated produc-
tion area. The areas for the processed primary crops were mapped to
the commodities produced, and allocated by economic value (e.g.
P. Alexander et al. Global Food Security xxx (xxxx) xxx–xxx
soybeans processed into soybean oil and meal) (Alexander et al., 2016).
The feed use was divided between animal products using estimated feed
requirements. Monogastric livestock (i.e. poultry and pigs) nutrition
was assumed to be met solely from feed, while feed and grazed pasture
is used for ruminant species (e.g. cattle and sheep). Feed requirements
were calculated using feed conversion ratios (FCRs), which express the
eciency of converting biomass inputs into animal products (Little,
2014; Macleod et al., 2013; Opio et al., 2013; Smil, 2013). The feed
requirements for monogastrics were assigned rst, and remaining feed
and the total pasture area were then allocated pro rata by feed
requirements to the ruminant products.
This approach provides the yields for primary crops, processed
commodities and livestock products, using 2011 global average pro-
duction eciencies. These were used to estimate the cropland and
pasture areas needed for diets containing these commodities, with the
resulting areas expressed through the HALF index, i.e. as the percentage
of total land area required for food production. The HALF index does
not provide a land use footprint for particular countries or regions, but
addresses questions such as how much land would be used if the global
population adopted diet X. The approach provides a comparative
metric of the land requirements of dierent diets, and a way to consider
the impacts from changes in dietary patterns. The inclusion of local
production systems within a land footprint would tend to obscures the
understanding of the role of diet in the global food system.
3.2. Alternative animal product scenarios
The alternative animal product scenarios assume that 50% of
current animal products, evenly distributed across existing sources,
are replaced by one commodity, while being constrained to maintaining
at least equal quantities of energy and protein within the diet. Nutrient
contents and FCRs were estimated for the substitute commodities
(Table 1, with assumptions below). The protein and energy contents
were used to calculate the mass of the commodity required to replace
the conventional foods removed. FCRs were applied to evaluate the
feed requirements to produce the substitute product. The feed was
assumed to be provided from the current mix and yields of animal
feeds, except for imitation meat, which was calculated using soybean
production. The net changes in cropland and pasture areas were then
calculated assuming the conventional livestock area reduces by 50%
(assuming constant production practices) plus the requirements from
the replacement commodity.
3.2.1. Insect consumption
Mealworm larvae and adult crickets were selected to assess the
impact of insect consumption, based on the availability of data for these
species (Table 1). Protein from conventional livestock and insects were
considered substitutable on an equal mass basis, as all essential amino
acids for humans are available from insects, although proles dier
between species (Persijn and Charrondiere, 2014; van Huis, 2013).
Insects are also high in a variety of micronutrients such as the minerals
copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, selenium, and zinc
and the vitamins riboavin, pantothenic acid, biotin, and in some cases
folic acid (Persijn and Charrondiere, 2014; Rumpold and Schlüter,
2013). However, the analysis is limited to considering equivalence of
protein and energy only. Although insects can be produced from
organic wastes, given the high levels of production required under this
scenario, it is assumed that production is from purpose-grown feed,
rather than waste sources.
3.2.2. Cultured (in vitro) meat
Process eciency values from Tuomisto and de Mattos (2011) were
used as FCR, but assuming that the raw materials for the production of
the culture medium is from conventional livestock feeds (Table 1).
Tuomisto and de Mattos (2011) suggest 99% less land is required to
produce cultured meat rather than livestock meat, but this assumes
production of biomass for the culture medium using an algae-based
system. This increases direct energy requirements while reducing land
requirements, but depends upon a conation of two novel technologies;
production of algae biomass and cell culturing of meat. Producing feed
from algae is likely to reduce the land required for conventional
livestock production, while increasing other inputs, and therefore we
consider only the cultured meat aspect. Production of the nutrient
brothin which the cells are cultured (Mattick et al., 2015a; Verbeke
et al., 2015) is possible from dierent inputs. However, as commercial-
scale processes for cultured meat are not yet available (Mattick et al.,
2015a), the assessment of which feedstock would be selected to
produce the culture media in the required quantities, and the associated
eciency are both uncertain. To represent this uncertainty the conver-
sion eciency range tested is large (Table 1).
3.2.3. Imitation meat
The calculation was based on the use of soybean curd, i.e. tofu, for
imitation meat. Manufacturing soybean curd from soybeans creates
some losses in protein and energy content (Wang and Cavins, 1989), for
example during the washing, grinding, boiling and pressing involved
(Sahirman and Ardiansyah, 2014), and also requires direct input of
energy to these operations (Table 1). The production of the soybean
curd was considered analogously to livestock production, with soy
being used to produce soybean curd, rather than livestock inputs
producing animal products. The losses in preparation of imitation meat
from the soybean curd are expected to be low, and given the relatively
simple processes, such as extrusion (Malav et al., 2015), have substan-
tially lower direct energy inputs in comparison to cultured meat.
3.2.4. Aquaculture
Production of Chinese carp and tilapia were taken as examples in
the analysis, due to their high contribution to current aquaculture and,
compared to carnivorous sh (e.g. salmon), their low requirements for
shmeal or sh oil as feeds, and more advantageous FCR. The feed
conversion ratios to live weight for tilapia and carp are 1.7 and 1.8
respectively (Tacon and Metian, 2008), but given that only 37% of the
sh by weight is llet (Bauer and Schlott, 2009; Pelletier and Tyedmers,
2010), this leads to a FCR to edible weight of 4.64.9 (Table 1).
Although some shmeal and sh oil are currently used as feed for these
species, these are not essential for nutrition in herbivorous and
omnivorous species (e.g. carp and tilapia) (Bostock et al., 2010).
Therefore, the assumption is that all feed is provided from land-based
production (e.g. soybeans and cereals). Any contribution from shmeal
and sh oil, that could be provided sustainably from sh processing by-
products is neglected (Bostock et al., 2010; Tacon and Metian, 2008).
The 50% replacement scenario would imply an approximately 10-fold
increase in protein terms.
3.2.5. Conventional livestock consumption changes
Each of the conventional animal products was also considered as
replacements for 50% of the current mix. Thus, more than half of
calories or protein were assumed to be provided by the commodity
being considered in each of these scenarios. For example, poultry meat
currently provides 24% of all animal proteins, which reduces to 12%
under all the other protein meat substitution scenarios except the
poultry meat scenario. Under this scenario 62% of animal product
consumption is from poultry, i.e. the 12% of unchanged poultry
consumption plus the 50% substituted for the current animal product
mix. The feed and pasture area requirements were calculated using the
results derived from the FAO data (FAOSTAT, 2015a, 2015c, 2015d,
2015e, 2015f, 2015g), as described above.
3.3. Waste and other dietary change scenarios
Scenarios for food waste reduction and for global adoption of the
average diets in India and the USA were included from previously
P. Alexander et al. Global Food Security xxx (xxxx) xxx–xxx
calculated results (Alexander et al., 2017, 2016).
3.3.1. Waste reduction
The waste reduction scenario uses losses from Alexander et al.
(2017). The scenario assumes that the combination of food discarded by
consumers and due to over-consumption halves from the 2011 rates to
11% of energy and 26% of protein (assuming requirements of 9.8 MJ/
person/day of energy and 52 g/day of protein (Institute of Medicine,
2005;SACN, 2011)). The reduction in this waste was applied equally
across all commodities. Losses during production, processing and
distribution were not changed, as the focus here is on the impact of
consumer behaviour on the food system.
3.3.2. High and low animal product diets
To assess the impact of diets with high and low rates of animal
products consumption, the average per capita consumption in the USA
and India were chosen, respectively. Alexander et al. (2016) used the
average consumption per capita for each commodity in these countries
to calculate the HALF index for their diets. Additionally, the dierence
between the global average diet and the diets in each of the countries
was decomposed into two parts (Alexander et al., 2016). The rst
represents a shift in the total quantity of nutrients consumed while
holding the proportional contribution of each commodity constant. The
second represents a shift in the prole of commodities consumed, while
holding the total nutrient level constant.
3.4. Uncertainty quantication
A number of the parameter values used are uncertain, with perhaps
the most inuential ones being the livestock feed conversion ratios and
the food nutrient contents. To assess the impact of these uncertainties,
these parameters were randomly sampled from assigned uncertainty
ranges (i.e. a Monte Carlo uncertainty method). The range of FCR for
conventional livestock was taken as 20% to +20% of the assumed
value (Alexander et al., 2016,Table 1), and for the alternative
commodities the ranges are given in Table 1. The ranges for protein
and energy contents were 10% to +10% for the 90 agricultural
commodities, carp, tilapia, soybean curd and cultured meat. However,
the nutrient content of the insect species appears to be less certain, so a
30% to +30% range was used. All of these uncertainty ranges are
indicative of qualitative levels of condence in the default values used
in the absence of relevant quantitative data. Uniform distributions were
used for all parameter uncertainties, sampled 500 times. The initial
allocation of land use to commodities, using the methodology of
(Alexander et al. (2016), was re-run for each sampled set of FCR.
3.5. Yields of alternatives to animal product
The energy and protein produced per unit of agricultural area were
found to vary by more than 100-fold across conventional animal
products and the alternatives considered (Fig. 1). Soybean curd had
the highest energy and protein yields (2.2 MJ/m
and 57 g/m
) and
beef the lowest (0.02 MJ/m
and 0.4 g/m
). After soybean curd, the
two insect species gave the next highest yields. The yields for cultured
meat were similar to eggs, and also relatively close to those for poultry.
The order of commodities by yield diered between protein and energy,
due to the dierences in nutrient contents. For example, tilapia has a
higher protein, but a lower energy yield, than carp. The areas for the
ruminant derived products (i.e. mutton and goat meat, milk, and beef)
include both cropland to produce feed and pasture area for grazing,
while the other products use only feeds from cropland.
3.6. Land requirements of scenarios
Global cropland and pasture areas vary substantially under the
scenarios (Fig. 2). The animal product substitute scenarios suggest that
the HALF index (i.e. the percentage of land area required for food
production), is 21.8 for soybean curd, and 112.2 for beef, compared to a
baseline of 35.1 in 2011. There is also considerable variability in the
cropland areas. The highest cropland requirement occurs in the tilapia
Table 1
Feed conversion eciencies, in dry matter (DM) weight of feed required per unit edible weight (EW), for alternatives to convention animal products considered. For conventional
livestock feed conversion eciencies data used and sources are given in Table 1,Alexander et al. (2016).
Commodity Percentage
(% EW of LW)
Feed conversion by
(kg DM feed/kg EW)
[uncertainty range]
(g / kg
Energy feed
Protein feed
Direct energy for
housing and
(MJ / kg EW)
Data sources
Mealworm: larvae
(Tenebrio molitor)
100 1.8
8.9 179 33 50 7.3 (Oonincx and de Boer, 2012;
Persijn and Charrondiere, 2014;
Spang, 2013)
Crickets: adults 80 2.1 5.9 205 19 49 No data (Finke, 2002; van Huis, 2013)
(Acheta domesticus) [1.92.4]
Cultured meat 100 4 8.3 190 17 24 1825
(Tuomisto and de Mattos,
Imitation meat 0.29 3.2 81 47 72 11.4 (Sahirman and Ardiansyah,
2014; USDA, 2015; Wang and
Cavins, 1989)
(based on soybean curd)
Tilapia 37 4.6 4.0 201 5.8 21.8 5.4 (Pelletier and Tyedmers, 2010;
USDA, 2015)
Chinese Carp 37 4.9 5.3 178 7.3 18.3 5.4
(Bauer and Schlott, 2009;
Tacon and Metian, 2008; USDA,
Energy and protein conversion eciency based on feed content of 15 MJ/kg DM and 200 g/kg protein.
Mealworm feed eciency adjusted from Spang (2013), assuming 62% moisture content (Persijn and Charrondiere (2014).
Excluding production of biomass feedstock.
Feed columns relates to inputs of soy to tofu production process.
Based on Tilapia production.
P. Alexander et al. Global Food Security xxx (xxxx) xxx–xxx
scenario, where an additional 709 Mha of cropland is needed for feed, a
46% increase in the total cropland area. However, total agricultural
land area reduces by 18% or 892 Mha, as cropland increases are more
than oset by a 1601 Mha drop in pasture area. For the animal product
replacement scenarios, the lowest cropland area is for milk with the
cropland reducing by 217 Mha (14%) of cropland and 590 Mha (18%)
of pasture, due to higher feed conversion ratios than the current mix of
animal products, and because nutrients are also derived from pasture.
Pasture changes dominate the results, with the cropland changes for
most of the other scenarios being more modest. For example, the results
with the largest agricultural area change have only a 79% change in
cropland, with soybean curd decreasing by 137 Mha and beef increas-
ing by 110 Mha, while the pasture areas decrease by 1601 Mha and
increase by 9916 Mha, respectively.
The animal production replacement scenarios all provide at least the
same amount of both energy and protein. The binding constraints were
by energy for all scenarios except pork. In these scenarios the replace-
ment food provides an equal amount of energy, but a greater quantity of
protein. Conversely, for pork the binding constrained was on protein,
due to the relatively low ratio of protein to energy in pork compared to
the other animal products (FAOSTAT, 2015e).
The range of agricultural land areas required based on uncertainty
in FCRs and food nutrients (Fig. 2, error bars) are small for the animal
product scenarios with low HALF indices (e.g. soybean curd and
insects). This is because the uncertainty from new food commodities,
e.g. for soybean curd, is only a small proportion of the total agricultural
area, therefore a large percentage uncertainty (Fig. 1) only produces a
small absolute uncertainty in land area (Fig. 2). The opposite is the case
for the results with higher HALF (e.g. beef), where the areas for
replacement production are large and so, therefore, are the associated
uncertainties. Fig. 1 shows uncertainty for each scenario per unit of
energy or protein.
The similarity in land requirements between the commodities with
low HALF indices (Fig. 2) suggests that substantial land use and
associated environmental benets could be achieved from the adoption
of any of them individually or in combination. Land requirements are
always reduced by further increases in eciencies of production per
unit area. For example, a doubling of eciency between two alternative
scenarios always produces a halving of land use requirements. How-
ever, as the land use requirements decrease, the dierences in the
absolute areas also decrease, creating diminishing returns from increas-
ing eciency. The selection of the most appropriate mix of the more
ecient products (Fig. 2) may therefore be more greatly inuenced by
other production externalities, e.g. biodiversity or water usage, rather
than the land requirements.
Table 2 summarises these meat substitution scenario results and also
includes the results from the consumer waste and scenarios from
adoption of high and low animal product diets (based on average
consumption in India and the USA) (Alexander et al., 2017, 2016). As
these additional scenarios involve dierent assumptions, i.e. they do
not consider a 50% substitute of animal products, direct comparisons
between these two scenario groups must be limited. However, the high
and low animal product diets (based on USA and India), respectively,
were found to have higher and lower land impacts than the meat
alternatives, with the exception of beef (Table 2). This is because the
diets include both a shift in the amounts of food consumed and, more
importantly, in the types of food consumed (Alexander et al., 2016).
These diets involve dierent rates of meat consumption, and therefore
are not restricted to maintain 50% of the current animal products as in
the other scenarios. The consumer waste scenario, halving foods
discarded and lost due to over-consumption, was found to spare 9%
of agricultural land.
4. Discussion
4.1. Limitations of the analysis
A stylised and exploratory approach is used to better understanding
and ensure comparison on a like-for-like basis of potential land use
outcomes across a range of scenarios, from the more unusual and
transformational (e.g. insects and cultured meat), to the more conven-
tional (e.g. changes in proportions of livestock demand). The replace-
ment of at least equal quantities of protein and calories has been
considered, leaving the potential for reductions in micronutrients
between the scenarios. The results are not intended as predictive, nor
are they presented to suggest equal plausibility, but rather to allow
comparisons in land use requirements between the scenarios.
Fixed global average production gures based on 2011 were used
and no spatial variation in production practices are taken into account.
These production practices would be expected to respond to the
Fig. 1. Energy and protein per unit area of agricultural land for conventional and alternatives to animal production. Error bars show the yield range from uncertainty in feed conversion
ratios and nutrient contents.
P. Alexander et al. Global Food Security xxx (xxxx) xxx–xxx
substantial changes considered in these scenarios, mediated by inter-
national trade in agricultural commodities. For example, increased
agricultural land requirement would tend to intensify production, with
higher rates of inputs used to achieve greater yields. Conversely, if less
agricultural land is needed for food, this may cause a lowering of the
production intensity. In both cases, such adaptation in production
moderates the land use consequences, but alters the resource require-
ments for other inputs, e.g. fertiliser or pesticide use (Hertel et al.,
2016;P. Smith, 2013). However, the results do characterise the
demands placed on agricultural production, which can be interpreted
as implying an increase in agricultural areas, an equivalent increase in
productive eciency (perhaps through greater inputs, i.e. higher
intensity), or some combination of the two. Nonetheless, comparison
with previous more complex model results suggests that the outcomes
here are broadly equivalent. For example the vegan and vegetarian
diets in Erb et al. (2016) have a central value for cropland area of
approximately 1200 and 1000 Mha, respectively, compared to the low
meat diet used here (based on the average diet in India) of 1022 Mha.
As expected, for the reasons given above, changes in intensity con-
sidered in Erb et al. (2016) but not here appear to moderate the land
use outcomes, i.e. for less agricultural land to be relinquished, but
coupled with a decrease in intensity of production. Therefore, although
the adopted approach neglects aspects that would allow robust spatial
or temporal predictions of land use, it does provide a consistent
methodology across scenarios allowing comparisons between them, a
primary aim of the study.
The results demonstrate that milk production is more ecient that
the current animal product mix, with the milk scenario showing a
decrease in land requirements (Table 1). Cull dairy cows and male dairy
calves could also be used to produce beef, which is not accounted for in
these results. If the additional beef production from an expanded dairy
sector were considered, the land requirements in the milk scenario
would be further reduced, as less land would be required to produce the
remaining beef consumed. The magnitude of this bias is perhaps
moderate, as the fraction of emissions from the dairy herd currently
assigned to milk rather than meat production is between 9096% (Opio
et al., 2013).
4.2. Imitation meat and soybean production
The imitation meat scenario, based on soybean curd, implies that
more cropland is used for growing soybeans, while the other meat
replacement scenarios use a more diverse mix of feeds. The additional
soybean areas may be less suited to the crop and so would have lower
yields than existing production, potentially leading to an underestimate
of the area needed when using average yields. An additional 111 Mha of
soybean area was calculated as needed (i.e. a doubling of 2013 area
(FAOSTAT, 2015c)), while 248 Mha of cropland currently used for
animal feed is spared. Therefore, the net cropland area decreases in this
scenario suggest that suitable land may be available, although this
would also be constrained by climatic suitability. However, higher
soybean yields would be anticipated to have only a small impact on the
results as the net percentage agricultural area change is dominated by
the change in pasture area. The expansion of soybean area may have
substantial local impacts, e.g. on biodiversity and soil quality, due to
the intensity of production. However, the land spared from agricultural
production by the transition could be potentially used to oset such
negative outcomes. This would be a form of land sparing, i.e.
separation of land for conservation and food production, in contrast
to land sharingwith integration of conservation and production
(Phalan et al., 2011). However, attempting to account for the associated
trade-os and scale eects, as well as the challenges and controversy
involved (Fischer et al., 2014), are out of scope for consideration here.
4.3. Cultured meat and energy
The results suggest that the benets claimed for cultured meat
(Tuomisto and de Mattos, 2011) may not be justied. Although cultured
meat was found to have a lower land footprint than beef, it had a
similar eciency to poultry meat (Figs. 1 and 2), but with substantially
higher direct energy requirements (Table 1 and S1). Direct energy
inputs are needed for cultured meat to process raw biomass material
into the cell medium, to then culture the cells and process them into a
consumable product, including sterilisation and hydrolysis (Tuomisto
and de Mattos, 2011). Conventional livestock use direct energy
primarily in housing, e.g. lighting, heating and cooling (Macleod
et al., 2013). Direct energy inputs for cultured meat (1825 GJ/t
(Tuomisto and de Mattos, 2011), Table 1) are higher than any of the
other foods considered here (at least four times the highest conven-
tional animal product, poultry meat (4.5 GJ/t (Macleod et al., 2013)).
This suggests that a low-cost and low-carbon source of energy may be a
prerequisite for cultured meat to be economically and environmentally
Fig. 2. Total cropland and pasture areas for food production under scenarios assuming 50% of current nutrients from animal productions are substituted with the indicated food, to
provide at least equal energy and protein. The results are expressed as the percentage of global land required, or HALF index, based on 2011 population and food production systems.
Error bars show the HALF range from uncertainty in feed conversion ratios and nutrient contents.
P. Alexander et al. Global Food Security xxx (xxxx) xxx–xxx
viable. Furthermore, the provision of growth factors, vitamins and trace
elements, e.g. B12, will also have an impact on the resources used for
cultured meat, although the scale of this is unclear. However, the
overall primary energy used in the production of cultured meat
production was shown to be 46% lower than for beef production (e.g.
including energy in fertiliser production and machinery), but 38%
higher than for poultry meat. Given the relative novelty of this
technology, further development and optimisation may be able to
reduce these energy and cost requirements and increase the eciency
of production (Bhat et al., 2017). These improvements would poten-
tially involve development of improved methods for producing the cell
culture medium beyond that assumed here. The types of feed used may
not match the current animal feed mix, although the land use
consequences of such dierences are likely to be lower than that
associated with the uncertainty in eciency of cultured meat produc-
tion, and would not be expected to alter our conclusions. Overall,
currently cultured meat could provide some benets (e.g. land use
savings compared to beef), but result in higher direct energy require-
ments and also potentially primary energy (e.g. in comparison to
poultry meat). This conclusion concurs with a more recent anticipatory
life cycle analysis of culture meat production (Mattick et al., 2015b).
4.4. Insects, promising but more research needed
Insects are the most ecient animal production system considered,
although less so than soybean curd. However, insects have the
additional advantage that they are able to use a wide variety of feeds,
including by-products and waste (Ocio and Vinaras, 1979; van
Broekhoven et al., 2015). The results here assume that insect feed uses
the same mix of feeds currently used for conventional livestock.
However, if half of food discarded by consumers (from Alexander
et al. (2017)) could be used as feed for mealworms, this would replace
8.1% of current animal production. Where the total feed is reduced
there is potential for this to occur primarily for food commodities (e.g.
cereals), and thereby increase the proportion of by-products. Although
by-products are ascribed some value when considering their impacts
(Elferink et al., 2008), the system eciency increases by replacing
lower yielding conventional livestock with insects (Fig. 1). For instance,
soybeans could be used to produce soybean curd, and then feed insects
from the residues.
More research is needed to understand how the large scale produc-
tion of insects could be achieved, the inputs required, the suitability of
feeds, and other constraints (e.g. location) (van Huis, 2013). There is
little published data on the feed eciency of insect production.
However direct energy inputs for intensive insect production appears
comparable to intensive conventional livestock production (Oonincx
and de Boer, 2012). Perhaps the biggest barrier to the large scale global
adoption of insects as a food source is consumer acceptability (Looy
et al., 2013; Shelomi, 2015), where again further research is required to
understand how best to increase adoption and what rate and levels of
consumption might be possible.
4.5. A future for ruminants?
The land use footprint of ruminant meat production is high, and
therefore consuming more beef and sheep meat requires large increases
Table 2
Summary of results across all scenarios, ordered by increasing agricultural land use.
Scenario Description Percentage change
in required
agricultural area
for food
HALF index Comments
Low animal product diet Average diet globally
becomes that of the average
diet in India
55 15.7 Inuenced by lower overall consumption, and lower rates of meat in the
diet. In both these aspects global diets are changing in the opposite
direction of current trends, making this scenario of low plausibility.
Soybean curd Soybean curd replaces 50% of
current animal products
35 21.7 Increase in direct energy inputs in comparison to animal products, but
less substantial than for cultured meat. 50% uptake seems unlikely to be
acceptable to consumers.
Insects Mealworm larvae replaces
50% of current animal
34 22.2 Consumer acceptability barriers in some regions. A lower level of uptake
in combination, perhaps as an ingredient, e.g. in pre-packaged foods,
seems more likely.
Most ecient
conventional animal
Eggs or chicken replaces 50%
of current animal products
30 to 28 23.7 to 24.4 The direction of recent changes, with rapid growth in the consumption
rates for chicken in particular, supported by intensication in
Cultured meat Cultured meat replaces 50%
of current animal products
29 24.0 Technology still rather uncertain (Bhat et al., 2014), and benets
compared to other sources of nutrients currently are not well
demonstrated. The high direct energy used in production also a concern.
Most ecient
Carp replaces 50% of current
animal products
22 26.8 Potential for environmental pollution issues with large-scale production,
although this is also the case with other intensive animal production.
Milk and products Milk and products replaces
50% of current animal
16 28.9 Associated with the largest reduction of cropland, while still providing
material reduction in overall agricultural area.
Reduction in waste Consumer waste, including
food discard and due to over-
consumption is halved
9 32.0 Feasible, but opposite to current direction of change, particularly with
respect to over-consumption. Health, as well as environmental, benets
for policies or social changes to reverse these changes.
High animal product diet Average diet globally
becomes that of the average
diet in the USA
+178 97.7 Not possible given production systems currently used. Direction of recent
changes for overall nutrients and rates of animal products consumption.
Approaching this consumption globally would be expected to increase
food price, suppress demand and intensify production practices.
Least ecient
conventional animal
Beef replaces 50% of current
animal products
+204 112.2 Physically impossible with production systems currently used, and
contrary to current trends of average per capita consumption falling
since 1970s.
P. Alexander et al. Global Food Security xxx (xxxx) xxx–xxx
in land areas (Fig. 2). Although ruminants are less ecient converters
of feed to edible foods than monogastrics (Table 1), their high reliance
on forage that is inedible to humans from non-arable land reduces their
claim for feeds produced on cropland (Smil, 2013). Livestock produc-
tion can also provide a range of other benets, e.g. recycling plant
nutrients, maintaining ecosystems and providing social benet(Janzen,
2011; Oltjen and Beckett, 1996). Therefore, ruminants that are mainly
grass-fed from land that is unsuitable for the production of other crops
may provide substantial benets, but this implies a move away from
intensive production practices, i.e. that use large quantities of feed
produced from cropland. Such extensive grazing based systems are
likely to produce a reduced quantity of livestock, and therefore per
capita consumption rates of ruminant meat would have to continue to
fall to avoid unsustainable land use change. Additionally, changes
towards consumption of diets with lower land use requirements also
provide the prospect of reduced competition for land between food
production and climate change mitigation measures, e.g. bioenergy or
aorestation (Smith et al., 2014).
5. Conclusions
These results suggest that alternatives to the current mix of livestock
production systems could substitute current animal products and
substantially reduce the current agricultural land use footprint from
food production. Reducing meat consumption overall is likely to have
the greatest eect on the land use footprint, but replacing beef or lamb
with any of the foods considered here has the potential for substantial
sustainability benets. Although, the two most ecient products
considered, i.e. imitation meat and insects, both come with consumer
perception barriers, a shift towards poultry meat, eggs and milk was
also found to oer land use and associated environmental benets, of
only slightly smaller magnitudes. Reductions in consumer waste have
potentially important but smaller impacts on resource requirement than
the other scenarios considered. We conclude that a diet which reduces
agricultural land requirements may best be achieved through a
combination of approaches, including both waste reduction, shifts
towards more ecient conventional animal products (e.g. chicken
and eggs), and greater use of alternatives such as insect and imitation
meat. A more balanced approach than those in the stylised scenarios
considered here would also require less extreme shifts in diets and
therefore need less dramatic changes in consumer consumption habits.
This work focuses principally on the land requirements, although out of
scope here, a similar consistent greenhouse gas lifecycle analysis across
all options is warranted, as well as consideration of consequences for
biodiversity, water requirements and other ecosystem services. Further
research is also required into the technologies and production systems
for the large scale production of insects, including what feeds are most
appropriate and the potential use of food waste and by-products, and to
better understand how consumer behaviour and preferences can be
inuenced towards a healthier and more sustainable diet.
The research was supported by the UK's Global Food Security
Programme project Resilience of the UK food system to Global Shocks
(RUGS, BB/N020707/1), and the European Union's Seventh Framework
Programme LUC4C (grant no. 603542). We acknowledge the support of
the Scottish Government's Rural and Environment Science and
Analytical Services Division funding to SRUC. Dominic Moran acknowl-
edges support from HEFCE Catalyst-funded N8 AgriFood Resilience
Programme and University of York matched funding.
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... Concomitante ao veganismo/vegetarianismo e às carnes vegetais, o consumo de invertebrados pode ser uma alternativa para quem acredita que a proteína animal é imprescindível (Alexander et al., 2017). Uma prática comum em muitas localidades engloba pelo menos 1900 espécies consumidas há milhares de anos, com destaque para larvas, formigas e moluscos (Shelomi, 2015). ...
... Indubitavelmente que o espaço necessário para produção de invertebrados e seu curto ciclo de vida tornaria os processos mais baratos. Acresce-se um provável menor prejuízo nas condições de bem-estar animal, tendo em vista o grau de senciência atribuído a esses animais e a qualidade nutricional (Alexander et al., 2017). Contudo, Fischer, Cordeiro e Librelato (2016) alertaram que a senciência dos invertebrados é uma preocupação lícita e que devem ser desenvolvidos protocolos rigorosos para manejo e abate, para evitar prejuízos ambientais e o bem-estar animal. ...
... Slade (2018) denominou esse processo de omnivorismo consciente, que tem incentivado programas mundiais como a segunda sem carne e o desenvolvimento de alternativas que imitam a carne, uma vez que o natural é comer carne (Hocqette et al., 2015). Alexander et al. (2017) ressaltaram que se deve prezar por um consumo sustentável considerando na escolha alimentar a economia de uso da terra e redução do desperdício, que inclui o consumo excessivo. Os autores sugeriram mudanças no comportamento do consumidor, como substituir a carne bovina por frango ou peixe, reduzir o desperdício de alimentos e, potencialmente, introduzir insetos na dieta. ...
... But because meat still is an indispensable component of a well-balanced meal for the majority of consumers (Love and Sulikowski, 2018), it would be difficult to eliminate meat from a consumer's diet. A possible approach is, instead of removing the meat element in a meal, replacing meat by a mock-meat substitute (Alexander et al., 2017). These substitutes have witnessed an enormous evolution; moving from regular soy or tofu products towards full-fledged meat substitutes that aim to imitate the most important characteristics of meat, such as taste, smell, appearance, and texture (Kumar et al., 2016;Smetana et al., 2015). ...
... Mock-meat substitutes are often made from plantbased material (e.g., soy, nuts, chickpeas, etc.), or mycoprotein (e.g., fungi) (Kyriakopoulou et al., 2019). These alternatives, often referred to as plant-based meat substitutes, have already found their way into the assortment of most retailers, which shows its potential to, at least partially, replace meat and facilitate a more sustainable food chain (Alexander et al., 2017;Tuomisto and Texeira de Mattos, 2011). ...
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... [ [43][44][45][46][47][48] Vegetable drinks ...
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The research and development of alternatives to meat (including fish) and dairy products for human consumption have been increasing in recent years. In the context of these alternatives, there is a diversity of products such as tofu, tempeh, seitan, pulses, algae, seeds, nuts and insects. Apart from these, some products require new technical processes such as needed by milk drink alternatives, mycoprotein and meat, cheese and fish analogues. The aim of these analogues is to mimic the physical and organoleptic properties of animal origin products through fibrous composition and mix of ingredients from vegetable sources using adequate technology, which allow providing similar texture and flavor. Using a narrative approach to review literature, the objectives of this paper are to systematize the arguments supporting the adoption of meat, eggs and dairy alternatives, to identify the diversity of alternatives to these products on the market, including the related technological processes, and to project the challenges that the food industry may face soon. From a total of 302 scientific papers identified in databases, 186 papers were considered. More research papers on products associated with alternatives to milk were found. Nevertheless, there are products that need more research as analogues to meat and dairy products. A general scheme that brings together the main reasons, resources and challenges that the food industry faces in this promising area of alternatives to meat and dairy products is presented.
... Due to the minimal processing and resource use, pulses represent the product category with the greatest gain in environmental sustainability (Van der Weele et al., 2019). PBMA, on the other hand, are produced by using highly purified and processed ingredients, which has been suggested to lead to more uncertain sustainability gains (Alexander et al., 2017). Studies have also shown that PBMA food products not necessarily lead to better health due to high amounts of e.g. ...
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The aim of this study was to gain an understanding of consumer attitudes and beliefs on three different types of plant-based meat alternatives (covering two highly processed Plant Based Meat Alternatives (PBMA) products: a. vegetarian nuggets and b. soy mince, and pulses: c. pre-cooked beans). The analysis was based on data obtained from a questionnaire-based survey (N = 483) conducted in Sweden in November 2020. Consumers were separated into four food preference groups (all of whom consume meat): 1. flexitarians (meat reducers), 2. omnivores (mixed diet), 3. consumers who prefer meat and fish (avoid vegetarian food) and 4. consumers who explicitly prefer to only eat meat (avoid vegetarian food and fish). Products were chosen with the intention that they represent products from a scale ranging from a less processed product (pre-cooked beans), via soy mince (a processed PBMA product) to vegetarian nuggets (ready-to eat processed PBMA). The two PBMA products were also chosen to represent one convenience product (vegetarian nuggets) and one product mainly used as an ingredient (soy mince). Gender, age, education, consumption frequencies, food neophobia, health concern, ranking of qualities, awareness of climate change, and the link between food and climate were explored. The results illustrate differences and similarities between the four groups in attitudes and beliefs as well as the three products. Flexitarians represent the group that expresses the most positive and sustainably connected attitudes and beliefs. Results also show that for all groups, PBMA products are perceived as more modern, artificial and expensive compared to pulses, which, in turn, are perceived as healthier and a better climate choice compared to PBMA products. Meat and “meat and fish” eaters attach much importance to taste, perceived protein content, satiety and domestic origin (from Sweden), whereas omnivores are guided by taste, ease of cooking, health, climate change, and the link between food and climate. The outcome is expected to support policymakers and market actors in developing target group applied strategies addressing differences among the four food preference groups, thereby increasing consumers’ intake of sustainable plant-based protein-rich products.
... Accordingly, it has been proposed that the global warming potential of mealworms per kg edible protein is significantly less than the production of products such as milk, chicken, pork, and, especially, beef (Oonincx & De Boer 2012). In terms of land use, insect farming is also viewed as extremely efficient, where estimates suggest mealworm production requires approximately 10% of the land space required for the production of a similar amount of beef (Alexander et al. 2017). Insect farming is now frequently used as a text book example of circular economy principles (Borkent & Hodge 2021; Van Huis et al. 2021; Figure 2). ...
... The future of meat (or protein) production in CEA systems that can challenge conventional methods comes in a variety of forms. While mushroom, fungal and algal feed stocks are already viable, it is mass-scale insect production and lab-grown meat that are seen as having the most realistic prospect in terms of competing with conventional livestock production methods in a more sustainable way (Alexander et al., 2017). By absorbing some of the future demand for meat products, these industries may provide a vital means by which to limit environmental damage. ...
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As demand for food production continues to rise, it is clear that in order to meet the challenges of the future in terms of food security and environmental sustainability, radical changes are required throughout all levels of the global food system. Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) (a.k.a. indoor farming) has an advantage over conventional farming methods in that production processes can be largely separated from the natural environment, thus, production is less reliant on environmental conditions, and pollution can be better restricted and controlled. While output potential of conventional farming at a global scale is predicted to suffer due to the effects of climate change, technological advancements in this time will drastically improve both the economic and environmental performance of CEA systems. This article summarizes the current understanding and gaps in knowledge surrounding the environmental sustainability of CEA systems, and assesses whether these systems may allow for intensive and fully sustainable agriculture at a global scale. The energy requirements and subsequent carbon footprint of many systems is currently the greatest environmental hurdle to overcome. The lack of economically grown staple crops which make up the majority of calories consumed by humans is also a major limiting factor in the expansion of CEA systems to reduce the environmental impacts of food production at a global scale. This review introduces the concept of Integrated System CEA (ISCEA) in which multiple CEA systems can be deployed in an integrated localized fashion to increase efficiency and reduce environmental impacts of food production. We conclude that it is feasible that with sufficient green energy, that ISCEA systems could largely negate most forms of environmental damage associated with conventional farming at a global scale (e.g., GHGs, deforestation, nitrogen, phosphorus, pesticide use, etc.). However, while there is plenty of research being carried out into improving energy efficiency, renewable energy and crop diversification in CEA systems, the circular economy approach to waste is largely ignored. We recommend that industries begin to investigate how nutrient flows and efficiencies in systems can be better managed to improve the environmental performance of CEA systems of the future.
... Insect-based foods were perceived to have lower environmental impact than beef products (Kusch and Fiebelkorn, 2019a). Entomophagy is expected to reduce agricultural land footprint and significantly curtail food waste when universally accepted (Alexander et al., 2017). One of the reasons for promoting insect-eating is the concern about the sustainability of the global ecosystem (Waltner-Toews and Houle, 2017). ...
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There is an urgent need for alternative protein sources due to the rapid population growth, climate change, environmental degradation by pollution, food-fuel competition and the reduction in arable land for agricultural use. Conventional livestock production is also deleterious to the environment due to the production of greenhouse gasses and ammonia. This article provides insights into the potentials of edibleinsects as novel food ingredients. The manuscript provides concise explanations for the need of embracing additional protein sources, edibleinsects consumption and their nutritional benefits and environmental and economic advantages of using edibleinsects as food. Literature was gathered through an online search on the Science Direct database and Google Scholar, relevant papers published between January 2002 and November 2020 were cited. Edibleinsects are good source of essential nutrients. They are rich in proteins and essential amino acids, contain good quality lipids and significant amounts of important minerals. They are potential source of proteins for humans and animals. They can play an important role in global food security by providing essential nutrients to the increasing global population. This can only be achieved when more attention is given to their production and processing. Creating awareness among new consumers on their nutritional and environmental benefits and the development of food products with appealing sensory properties will surely improve their acceptance as food.
Extreme weather conditions have intensified due to manufactured environmental damage in recent years. To reduce the environmental impact on the Earth, many consumers seek to change their dietary patterns to protect the environment and voluntarily switch to a vegetarian diet. Past studies have found that the transition from nonvegetarian to vegetarian is not easy, but promoting the consumption of alternative foods such as plant-based meat alternatives should help consumers gradually reduce their dependence on meat during the transition period of changing their eating habits. This study was designed to apply the value-attitude-behavior model (VAB) to study the consumption attitude and behavior of novel and environmentally friendly foods such as plant-based meat alternatives, and the novelty of plant-based meat alternatives was included as an intervening variable for discussion. In this study, 376 valid questionnaires were collected from college students in Taiwan, and the recovery rate of valid questionnaires was 94%. It was found from the analysis of results that perceptions of green value and animal welfare value had a significantly positive effect on attitude, while attitude and product knowledge also had a significant positive effect on behavior; however, the novelty of plant-based meat alternatives products did not have an interference effect on the relationship between product knowledge and behavior. Based on the research findings of this study, it is suggested that when introducing plant-based meat alternatives products, food companies should not only let consumers understand that they are based on environmental friendliness and animal welfare values but also enhance the marketing and promotion of product knowledge to increase consumers’ confidence in purchasing plant-based meat alternatives and reduce their consumption concerns.
Cell-based meat has attracted great attention in recent years as a novel product of future food biomanufacturing and a breakthrough in the global food industry. Previous reports mainly focus on the relatively independent investigation of the nature and consumer acceptance of cultured meat, and there is limited research upon its commercialization, safety, and quality control. Based on the existing literature, we overview current cultured meat startups distribution, product varieties, investment, and financing status. Furthermore, the challenges of commercializing cultured meat products are systematically discussed from the aspects of key technologies, safety and supervision, and market expectation. Finally, some strategies and prospects related to the marketing of cultured meat are put forward. Although some cultured meat startups’ development and financing results are exciting, the greatest obstacles to the market promotion of cultured meat products are the large-scale production, safety assessment, improvement of a supervision system, and product-based market survey influenced by technology challenges.
Artificial meat shows great promise as a method for use in future food production. It is predicted that traditional meat will be insufficient with the increasing human population. In addition, artificial meat has many advantages in terms of human health, such as being sustainable for the environment, controlled fat content, and absence of antibiotics and hormones compared to traditional meat. Artificial meat, also known as cultured meat, is produced through in vitro myogenesis, which includes muscle tissue-based protein products, stem cell culture, and differentiation, and mature muscle cell processing for flavor and texture. Artificial meat production consists of a sequential process; firstly muscle sampling for stem cell collection and followed by muscle tissue dissociation and muscle stem cell isolation, primary cell culture, high cell culture, and ending with muscle differentiation and maturation. A deep understanding of the process by considering its pros and cons will help not only artificial meat production but also the food industry in business sectors seeking new biomaterials. By explaining the methods utilized for artificial meat production, this study is created to prepare for the new era of cellular agriculture as well as for application in academia and industry.
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Losses at every stage in the food system influence the extent to which nutritional requirements of a growing global population can be sustainably met. Inefficiencies and losses in agricultural production and consumer behaviour all play a role. This paper aims to understand better the magnitude of different losses and to provide insights into how these influence overall food system efficiency. We take a systems view from primary production of agricultural biomass through to human food requirements and consumption. Quantities and losses over ten stages are calculated and compared in terms of dry mass, wet mass, protein and energy. The comparison reveals significant differences between these measurements, and the potential for wet mass figures used in previous studies to be misleading. The results suggest that due to cumulative losses, the proportion of global agricultural dry biomass consumed as food is just 6% (9.0% for energy and 7.6% for protein), and 24.8% of harvest biomass (31.9% for energy and 27.8% for protein). The highest rates of loss are associated with livestock production, although the largest absolute losses of biomass occur prior to harvest. Losses of harvested crops were also found to be substantial, with 44.0% of crop dry matter (36.9% of energy and 50.1% of protein) lost prior to human consumption. If human over-consumption, defined as food consumption in excess of nutritional requirements, is included as an additional inefficiency, 48.4% of harvested crops were found to be lost (53.2% of energy and 42.3% of protein). Over-eating was found to be at least as large a contributor to food system losses as consumer food waste. The findings suggest that influencing consumer behaviour, e.g. to eat less animal products, or to reduce per capita consumption closer to nutrient requirements, offer substantial potential to improve food security for the rising global population in a sustainable manner.
Technical Report
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GlobAgri-AgT has been used to simulate the impacts on world and regional land use, agricultural production and agricultural trade of the five Agrimonde-Terra scenarios.
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Livestock contribute to food security by supplying essential macro- and micro-nutrients, providing manure and draught power, and generating income. But they also consume food edible by humans and graze on pastures that could be used for crop production. Livestock, especially ruminants, are often seen as poor converters of feed into food products. This paper analyses global livestock feed rations and feed conversion ratios, with specific insight on the diversity in production systems and feed materials. Results estimate that livestock consume 6 billion tonnes of feed (dry matter) annually – including one third of global cereal production – of which 86% is made of materials that are currently not eaten by humans. In addition, soybean cakes, which production can be considered as main driver or land-use, represent 4% of the global livestock feed intake. Producing 1 kg of boneless meat requires an average of 2.8 kg human-edible feed in ruminant systems and 3.2 kg in monogastric systems. While livestock is estimated to use 2.5 billion ha of land, modest improvements in feed use efficiency can reduce further expansion.
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We present a modelling framework to simulate probabilistic futures of global cropland areas that are conditional on the SSP (shared socio-economic pathway) scenarios. Simulations are based on the Parsimonious Land Use Model (PLUM) linked with the global dynamic vegetation model LPJ-GUESS (Lund–Potsdam–Jena General Ecosystem Simulator) using socio-economic data from the SSPs and climate data from the RCPs (representative concentration pathways). The simulated range of global cropland is 893–2380 Mha in 2100 (± 1 standard deviation), with the main uncertainties arising from differences in the socio-economic conditions prescribed by the SSP scenarios and the assumptions that underpin the translation of qualitative SSP storylines into quantitative model input parameters. Uncertainties in the assumptions for population growth, technological change and cropland degradation were found to be the most important for global cropland, while uncertainty in food consumption had less influence on the results. The uncertainties arising from climate variability and the differences between climate change scenarios do not strongly affect the range of global cropland futures. Some overlap occurred across all of the conditional probabilistic futures, except for those based on SSP3. We conclude that completely different socio-economic and climate change futures, although sharing low to medium population development, can result in very similar cropland areas on the aggregated global scale.
Background: Underweight and severe and morbid obesity are associated with highly elevated risks of adverse health outcomes. We estimated trends in mean body-mass index (BMI), which characterises its population distribution, and in the prevalences of a complete set of BMI categories for adults in all countries. Methods: We analysed, with use of a consistent protocol, population-based studies that had measured height and weight in adults aged 18 years and older. We applied a Bayesian hierarchical model to these data to estimate trends from 1975 to 2014 in mean BMI and in the prevalences of BMI categories (<18·5 kg/m2 [underweight], 18·5 kg/m2 to <20 kg/m2, 20 kg/m2 to <25 kg/m2, 25 kg/m2 to <30 kg/m2, 30 kg/m2 to <35 kg/m2, 35 kg/m2 to <40 kg/m2, ≥40 kg/m2 [morbid obesity]), by sex in 200 countries and territories, organised in 21 regions. We calculated the posterior probability of meeting the target of halting by 2025 the rise in obesity at its 2010 levels, if post-2000 trends continue. Findings: We used 1698 population-based data sources, with more than 19·2 million adult participants (9·9 million men and 9·3 million women) in 186 of 200 countries for which estimates were made. Global age-standardised mean BMI increased from 21·7 kg/m2 (95% credible interval 21·3–22·1) in 1975 to 24·2 kg/m2 (24·0–24·4) in 2014 in men, and from 22·1 kg/m2 (21·7–22·5) in 1975 to 24·4 kg/m2 (24·2–24·6) in 2014 in women. Regional mean BMIs in 2014 for men ranged from 21·4 kg/m2 in central Africa and south Asia to 29·2 kg/m2 (28·6–29·8) in Polynesia and Micronesia; for women the range was from 21·8 kg/m2 (21·4–22·3) in south Asia to 32·2 kg/m2 (31·5–32·8) in Polynesia and Micronesia. Over these four decades, age-standardised global prevalence of underweight decreased from 13·8% (10·5–17·4) to 8·8% (7·4–10·3) in men and from 14·6% (11·6–17·9) to 9·7% (8·3–11·1) in women. South Asia had the highest prevalence of underweight in 2014, 23·4% (17·8–29·2) in men and 24·0% (18·9–29·3) in women. Age-standardised prevalence of obesity increased from 3·2% (2·4–4·1) in 1975 to 10·8% (9·7–12·0) in 2014 in men, and from 6·4% (5·1–7·8) to 14·9% (13·6–16·1) in women. 2·3% (2·0–2·7) of the world's men and 5·0% (4·4–5·6) of women were severely obese (ie, have BMI ≥35 kg/m2). Globally, prevalence of morbid obesity was 0·64% (0·46–0·86) in men and 1·6% (1·3–1·9) in women. Interpretation: If post-2000 trends continue, the probability of meeting the global obesity target is virtually zero. Rather, if these trends continue, by 2025, global obesity prevalence will reach 18% in men and surpass 21% in women; severe obesity will surpass 6% in men and 9% in women. Nonetheless, underweight remains prevalent in the world's poorest regions, especially in south Asia.
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Human appropriation of land for food production has fundamentally altered the Earth system, with impacts on water, soil, air quality, and the climate system. Changes in population, dietary preferences, technology and crop productivity have all played important roles in shaping today’s land use. In this paper, we explore how past and present developments in diets impact on global agricultural land use. We introduce an index for the Human Appropriation of Land for Food (HALF), and use it to isolate the effects of diets on agricultural land areas, including the potential consequences of shifts in consumer food preferences. We find that if the global population adopted consumption patterns equivalent to particular current national per capita rates, agricultural land use area requirements could vary over a 14-fold range. Within these variations, the types of food commodities consumed are more important than the quantity of per-capita consumption in determining the agricultural land requirement, largely due to the impact of animal products and in particular ruminant species. Exploration of the average diets in the USA and India (which lie towards but not at global consumption extremes) provides a framework for understanding land use impacts arising from different food consumption habits. Hypothetically, if the world were to adopt the average Indian diet, 55% less agricultural land would be needed to satisfy demand, while global consumption of the average USA diet would necessitate 178% more land. Waste and over-eating are also shown to be important. The area associated with food waste, including over-consumption, given global adoption of the consumption patterns of the average person in the USA, was found to be twice that required for all food production given an average Indian per capita consumption. Therefore, measures to influence future diets and reduce food waste could substantially contribute towards global food security, as well as providing climate change mitigation options.