The government has been urged to back research on artificial meat in a bid to reduce agriculture’s carbon dioxide emissions and fight climate change.
That’s according to a new report by the think tank, the Social Market Foundation (SMF), which suggests encouraging the consumption of what it describes as ‘alternative proteins’ would be politically easier for policymakers to introduce than taxing traditional meat.
In its paper, the SMF notes alternative proteins could have a “significantly” lower carbon footprint than that of raising animals for food.
The SMF also said that artificial meat could make it much easier for consumers to make that change, so ministers should increase support for the industry.
The UK has committed £90 million to support new alternative protein research, but the SMF said that figure should rise.
The Climate Change Committee has said the amount of meat consumed in the UK needs to be cut down by more than a third by 2050.
Linus Pardoe, the paper’s Author and SMF Research Associate, said: “A greener world will mean eating less meat, but politicians cannot expect consumers to easily stomach a tax which raises the price of meat. Early skirmishes suggest a so-called ‘meat tax’ could descend into an unconstructive cultural debate.
“A better solution would be to help consumers transition to more sustainable dietary habits by expanding the range of alternative protein products on the market.”
A Defra spokesperson said: “We were the first major economy in the world to legislate for net zero.
“Whilst food choices can have an impact on greenhouse gas emissions, well-managed livestock provide a range of benefits including supporting biodiversity and generating income for rural communities.
“We acknowledge the role of alternative protein sources, and this will be explored as part of our upcoming food White Paper. We are also looking at ways to reduce agricultural emissions controlled directly within the farm boundary, which could include modifying animal feed and feeding practices.”
Three months ago, asked about the possibility of a new meat tax, a government spokesperson told ELN: “We will not be introducing a meat tax, as the Prime Minister has confirmed previously.”