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Alternative Proteins – what does the science say?

There is growing interest in alternative proteins, both in their source, use and nutritional profiles, and whether they can provide sustainable sources of protein that can be produced with a lower environmental footprint. Alternative proteins were highlighted in Henry Dimbleby’s ‘National Food Strategy: The Plan’, an independent review that Government is now considering, in which ‘Alternative Proteins’ was defined as an umbrella term for a range of products that can work as a substitute for conventional meats, including plant-based proteins, cultured meat, insect-based proteins and proteins produced by precision fermentation.

The SMC joined forces with BBSRC to run a background press briefing for journalists which covered the following aspects:

  1. Environmental considerations – this will look at the current and future research evidence on whether alternative protein production, be that plant-based proteins, insect-based proteins or precision fermentation, have a much lower environmental footprint than current conventional livestock production systems. 
  2. Health considerations – while the environmental benefits of some forms of alternative proteins is becoming more clear, the health benefits are generally less well understood. Research and innovation have a key role to play in assessing the nutritional composition and micronutrient availability of alternative forms of protein, along with the implications for changing diets in this way (e.g., protein quality, bioavailability, impact on microbiome etc.)

The briefing also addressed issues around the food safety and regulation of novel proteins.


Speakers included:

Prof Guy Poppy, Director of Transforming the UK food system for healthy people and a healthy environment, University of Southampton

Pete Rowe, CEO, Deep Branch Biotechnology

Prof Pete Wilde, Group Leader, Quadram Institute Bioscience

Prof Wendy Russell, Professor of Molecular Nutrition, The Rowett Institute, University of Aberdeen

Prof Ian Givens, Professor of Food Chain Nutrition, and Director at the Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health, University of Reading

Prof Robin May, Chief Scientific Adviser, Food Standards Agency, and Professor of Infectious Disease, University of Birmingham

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