To address the environmental impact of animal foods, a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has looked into the potential of plant-based, cultivated, and fermented meat alternatives.

According to the report, estimates for the growth of the alternative meat market vary widely, with estimates for its share of the overall meat market by 2040 ranging from 4 to 60%.

The authors contend that substantial technological advancements are necessary to enable meat substitutes to rival animal products in terms of flavor and cost as well as to become more widely accessible.

Meat alternatives, especially those made with low-carbon energy, “show strong potential for reduced environmental impacts compared to many conventional animal products,” according to research. They also have advantages for public health, such as reducing the danger of pandemics and antibiotic resistance, and they have the potential to significantly lessen the harm that animals endure in the food chain.

Image by HANSUAN FABREGAS from Pixabay

Reduced risks of non-communicable diseases and premature death are also linked to minimally processed plant-based diets; however, the report notes that many plant-based meat substitutes on the market today are highly processed. Recent research indicates that meat substitutes do not pose the same health risks as processed animal meat and other processed foods and beverages, like sugar-filled soft drinks.


Several nations and areas are listed in the report as having already made investments in meat substitutes, including the US, Singapore, Brazil, China, the EU, India, Israel, and Singapore. It mentions that although legislative and regulatory frameworks are changing quickly, some governments are offering incentives to producers of alternative meat. Italy, on the other hand, has passed laws outlawing the use of terms referring to meat that is plant-based, as well as the cultivation of meat. 

UNEP recommends that governments fund research and create streamlined regulatory frameworks to help meat substitutes become commercially viable. Additionally, they might cut back on or reorganize the subsidies currently provided to animal husbandry.


According to the authors’ conclusion, alternative meats may be a significant factor in the transition towards food systems that are healthier, more sustainable, and more animal-friendly.

Positive results can be ensured by introducing policies that effectively promote these foods.

“New food alternatives will offer a broader spectrum of consumer choices,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. “Further, such alternatives can also lessen the pressures on agricultural lands and reduce emissions, thereby helping us address the triple planetary crisis — the crisis of climate change, the crisis of biodiversity and nature loss, the crisis of pollution and waste — as well as address the health and environmental consequences of the animal agriculture industry. More government support, as well as open and transparent research, can help unlock the potential of these new technologies for some countries.”