Half of the UK will be vegetarian or vegan in less than 20 years as the impacts of climate change increases, a new report suggests.
And within the next decade, 'air protein' – a sustainable protein literally made from air – will be a key carbon neutral method of food production, with affordable carbon dioxide (CO2) based proteins on the market by 2028.
Quite significantly, we have fewer than 30 years to eat less meat if humanity and life on planet is to survive, the report commissioned by charity No Meat May also reveals, based on predictions from food futurologist Dr Morgaine Gaye and Dr Shireen Kassam.
Meanwhile, Gen Z will no longer think of meat as 'masculine' and will be too ashamed to buy it in public.
As meat contains 14 times more pesticides than plant foods as well as antibiotics, 10 million people are predicted to die of antibiotic resistant bugs by 2050.
But eight out of 10 of the leading causes of death could be prevented by adopting a more plant based diet and healthy lifestyle, backed by leading doctors at Plant Based Health Professionals.
While meat consumption is continuing to rise in developing countries, in the UK it is estimated there will be 16 million people meat free by the beginning of next year.
“With much more social acceptance normalising meals without meat, plus the extensive availability for alternatives, it follows that we can expect to see continued changes in the way consumers shop and eat,” says Dr Gaye, as she shares her predictions.
Switching to a mostly plant-based diet would immediately reduce our carbon emissions by a quarter. Gaye states that if we don't start eating less meat, our planet will be uninhabitable in less than 30 years.
"Awareness around carbon footprint and food consumption still seem to create a disconnect for the majority of shoppers," says Gaye, highlighting that not enough are aware that with diet change can come climate change.
With No Meat May's intention to encourage people to give up meat for the 31 days of the month (and hopefully longer), Gaye's reasons for doing so include benefits for deforestation, climate change, wildlife, health, pollution, fresh water, feeding the world, cost, vitamins and energy.
It seems the one slight positive of the cost of living crisis is that it has led Brits to cut back on meat and alcohol, spending 7.8% less on chicken, beef, pork and fish in the past month than the same period last year, according to separate figures by Nielsen.
Meanwhile the volume of meat, fish and poultry fell by 13%, indicating further that people are choosing to buy less expensive products.
With extensive investment and research into new ways to produce meat alternatives which are are better for the environment, the two 'most innovative and investment heavy' highlighted by the No Meat May report are in-vitro or cultured meat (grown in a lab from animal cells) and air technology.
The idea of a type of protein made from air was started initially as research by NASA in the late 1960s as a 'closed loop food system, using the carbon monoxide expelled by the space crew as the starting point', the report explains, adding that now a number of Silicon Valley start-ups, including Air Protein, a California-based company, are investing in this sustainable protein.
“We can expect to see this product first come to market as plant protein isolate, a type of powder which can be used in the production of yoghurts, plant based burgers or other ready meals using meat substitutes," says Gaye.
"Although there are currently no launch dates announced by Air Protein, we can expect to see something affordable on the market by 2028."
In terms of our increased consumption of antibiotics (either from prescriptions of ingested food), this can disrupt out gut microbiome, the bacteria that lives happily in our stomach and intestines and that are the key to our immunity.
This disruption has been linked to the rise of diseases like obesity, juvenile diabetes, asthma and allergies, while some believe that alterations in the gut have led to an increase of autism, Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s disease.
“A healthy plant-based diet is one of the critical solutions to a number of our global health crises," says Dr Shireen Kassam, of Plant Based Health Professionals.
"Not only can a plant-based diet significantly reduce the risk of a number of our commonest chronic conditions, helping us to live a longer and better quality life, it is necessary to reverse the catastrophic trends in antibiotic-resistant infections and help mitigate against some of the health-related impacts of climate change.
"Diet change is a greatly underutilised solution within healthcare systems."
And when it comes to meat and culture, there is high hopes for Gen Z's positive influence over Britain's eating habits, with their purchasing decisions increasingly based on environmental impact and them influenced by the trend of 'insta-friendly' food.
“This does indicate yet another potential decline in meat consumption by the emerging generations who consider being plant-based to be to be good for their online profiles," says Gaye.
Plus, No Meat May's research reveals that over half of Brits (51%) consider a high-carbon, unhealthy, meat-heavy diet to be masculine.
In relation to this, the report explains how with the younger generation being more gender fluid, the notion of meat representing masculinity will be affected as the concept is altered and becomes less aspirational.
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