For decades animal rights advocates and vegans have revealed the wide array of benefits that come with plant-based diets, both for our health and the planet. Despite repeated findings that plant-based products are more sustainable than traditional meat and dairy products, a recent Stanford study found that the government invests over 800 times more in the meat and dairy industries, shining a light into the hidden scenes where rich and powerful forces utilize all their power to maintain the status quo, even as the earth cries out for change.
Disparities in Government Investments for Alternative Proteins
While government investments in alternative protein development doubled in 2022 to $635 million, that is still 800 times less than the amount put into the meat and dairy industries in the US. This means that for every dollar directed toward plant-based or cultivated protein in the US, $800 is directed to traditional animal agriculture. In the EU, that number increases to $1200. The discrepancy is quite concerning for those who understand the potential implications of continued animal farming. This would indicate that the government is not fully supporting sustainable practices that would benefit the environment and our future.
“It’s clear that powerful vested interests have exerted political influence to maintain the animal-farming system status quo.” – Eric Lambin (Study Senior Author)
Highlighting the Numbers Behind the Challenges Plant-Based Proteins Face:
“Despite the need to reduce society’s reliance on animal-derived foods, the animal farming system is still heavily supported by public policies, public finances, and dietary guidelines, both in the United States and the European Union. Powerful vested interests exert their political influence to maintain the status quo. As a result, the climate-mitigation potential of novel technologies associated with animal product analogs is largely ignored. A significant policy shift is required to reduce the food system impact on climate, land use, and biodiversity.” – One Earth
In the United States, animal-based food products receive 800 times the public funding. The European Union has a similar problem with animal-based products getting 1200 times the public funding.
Prominent meat and dairy companies in the United States actively lobby against environmental regulations to influence laws in their favor. The European Union shows animal-based products receiving triple the lobbying money and in the United States animal-derived products receive 190 times the lobbying funds than plant-based alternatives.
Plant-based meat innovations are limited to a small group of entities in both the United States and the United Kingdom. For example, in the United States, Impossible Foods owns half of all the plant-based meat patents.
Legal limits for labeling standards, such as the European ruling against the use of ‘milk’ and ‘cheese’ for alternative dairy products along with the proposed amendments in the United States demanding that alternative meats be labeled as ‘imitation’, are meant to deter consumers from purchasing them.
Meat & Dairy’s Stifling of Free Market Economies
In a free-market economy, prices of goods and services are dependent on supply and demand rather than government intervention. This allows businesses to freely compete and leaves consumers free to make their own decisions regarding which services or products they would prefer to buy. A market in which the government has greater control over prices, production, or distribution, often called an unfree market, leaves businesses subject to greater government regulations and means consumers may see fewer available choices. By prioritizing meat and dairy industries to an extreme degree, governments are creating an “unfree market” where meat and dairy products are much more affordable and available than their plant-based counterparts.
Reaching The Full Potential of Alternative Proteins
The Global Innovation Needs Assessment predicts that “the alternative protein industry has the potential to support 9.8 million jobs and generate $1.1 trillion in economic activity by 2050.” If the alternative proteins sector is to reach full potential, however, governments across the world will need to significantly step up their funding efforts. Between research & development alongside commercialization, the required funding should be more in the ballpark of $10.1 billion annually. The economic, environmental, and health benefits are well worth the investment, though.
“Conventional agriculture is a risk factor for pandemics, and alternative proteins can reduce the risk of future disease outbreaks and minimize disease transmission,” says GFI’s policy coordinator, Saira Weinzimmer. “Alternative proteins are more efficient and resilient options that can lower risk and increase supply chain stability in the face of an uncertain future.”
Creating a Sustainable Future
The journey towards a sustainable future is filled with challenges, but the path is clear. As we come to terms with the impending threats of climate change, pandemics, and economic instability, prioritizing and investing in plant-based and alternative protein sectors is not just an option; it’s a necessity. The time for a sustainable revolution in the food industry is upon us, and it is time to tip the scales in favor of a healthier, greener, and economically vibrant future. The Earth’s future, our health, and economic prosperity depend on citizens, governments, and businesses making more informed, equitable, and progressive decisions.