Will animal protein be the answer to future food demand?

Saturday June 30, 2018 Hillmare Schulze

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and Plant and Food Research have released a joint report: The evolution of plant protein, evaluating consumer response in June this year.  The report was commissioned to assess consumer responses to protein and highlight the potential impacts to the New Zealand agricultural industry.


New Zealand's animal-based protein export revenue alone accounts for 60 percent of New Zealand's total primary exports.  The demand for protein will grow as the global population is set to increase to 8.1 billion by 2025.  However, will this demand come from animal based protein? Or will we see a surge in demand for plant based protein?


If business as usual continues, global meat production—as we see in the chart below—will grow from around 70 million tonnes (just over 80 million tons if you include eggs) in 1961, to a whopping 455 million tonnes of meat alone (not including eggs or seafood) in 2050.  A growing global population, combined with factors such as changing socio-demographics, will place increased pressure on the world’s resources to provide not only more but also different types of protein.  Increased demand for animal-based protein in particular is expected to have a negative environmental impact, generating greenhouse gas emissions, requiring more water and more land.


graph 02 07 18


This level of pressure on our resources was also recognised in the MPI Plant and Food report, eluding to changing consumer demand by stating that progress towards new protein innovations caused by increasing global pressures and changing consumer needs requires a long-term strategy to protect, to innovate, and to grow our primary industries.  It further states that consumer preferences and awareness of the consequences of food production is creating a need for new products. 


How will New Zealand adapt to these global pressures? Will we be a leader on alternative proteins? Or will we stick to business as usual?