Food is vital to our survival. But for a healthier, more sustainable planet we need to think about the kind of food we’re eating and where it comes from. That’s why our Australian Ethical Foundation is supporting Food Frontier, an organisation at the forefront of the future of food.
Through the Australian Ethical Foundation we support organisations helping to transition us to a more sustainable planet.
And one of the biggest impacts we have on the planet is our meat intake because of the emissions produced from farming animals at an industrial scale. And so to help limit our warming to 1.5-degrees we need to find alternative sources of protein. (And reducing the farming and consumption of factory-farmed animals is also a win for animal welfare).
That’s why we support Food Frontier, a think tank and expert advisor for plant-based and cell-cultivated meat in Australia and New Zealand helping increase access to more sustainable and healthier proteins. They’re working to create a more diversified, efficient and future-proof protein supply to support a growing population in the coming decades.
We caught up with Food Frontier founder, Thomas King to find out more about the organisation and how they’re making an impact.
1. Why did you start Food Frontier? What is your goal?
Having spent a decade helping lead various food systems, environmental and poverty alleviation initiatives across five continents, I founded Food Frontier after realising our food and how we produce it was central to all of these issues – and that our current systems of industrial animal agriculture and aquaculture cannot sustainably feed our growing global population.
Our vision is a nutritious, sustainable and future-proof protein supply, which Food Frontier is bringing about by supporting the growth of alternative proteins, plant-based meat and cell-cultivated meat, which offer benefits for people and the planet.
2. Why is plant-based or cell-cultivated meat so important to overcome environmental and public health threats?
Many experts from the IPCC to Chatham House to the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute agree that we need to reduce our reliance on conventional meat production to meet rising protein demands safely and sustainably, without surpassing ecological and public health tipping points.
Research by the University of Oxford shows that choosing plant-based meals two-thirds of the time can cut a person's food-related greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 60%. Another study by the University of Oxford and LCA Research group using data from 38,700 farms across 119 countries found that 7 of the 10 highest emitting foods worldwide are animal products.
And the leading causes of death in Australia – like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancers such as colorectal cancer – have been linked to overconsumption of red and processed meat in a large range of peer-reviewed studies, which is why the World Health Organisation, Australian Heart Foundation, Australian Dietary Guidelines and more recommend limiting consumption of these meats.
For people seeking to reduce their meat consumption for their health or the health of the planet, plant-based meats provide an alternative that’s familiar, nutritious, convenient and culturally relevant, and can be produced within planetary boundaries and without threatening public health.
3. Where do you think the biggest benefits will accrue from increased alternative proteins?
Alternative proteins offer benefits for people, the planet and animals.
For example, by going directly to plants or cells to create mince and meatballs, alternative proteins negate the need to breed, feed, raise and slaughter animals en masse, thus bypassing many of the public health, environmental and animal welfare concerns often associated with current industrial meat production.
With the global population projected to rise to 10 billion by 2050, diversifying protein production globally is critical to feeding our growing population. Considering between 2012 and 2050, meat demand globally is estimated to increase 74%, Australia and New Zealand can lead the way in reaping the economic benefits of the rapidly growing, multi-billion-dollar market for alternative proteins that will be essential to fulfilling future protein demands.
4. How is Food Frontier helping expand plant-based meats in Australia?
At Food Frontier we produce research, reports and events. We connect businesses, innovators and policymakers, helping them navigate and participate in the emerging alternative proteins sector.
Our thought leadership work and direct advisory engagement help illuminate the opportunities for investment and innovation in alternative proteins, and how they serve as a sustainable and profitable solution to diversifying protein supply in our region and beyond.
5. What are some of the latest plant-based consumer and industry insights in Australia and New Zealand?
Consumer demand is driving the expansion of the plant-based meat alternatives sector, which has grown exponentially over the past year with more than 170 products now on supermarket shelves across both Australia and New Zealand.
Retailers are trialling many new plant-based meats in stores, as well as integrating a plant-based section into their conventional meat aisles.
Encouragingly and unsurprisingly, more consumers are reducing their meat intake. For example, in a study we commissioned Colmar Brunton to undertake in 2019, 1-in-3 Australians and New Zealanders said they were actively limiting their consumption of meat in the last 12 months.
6. What impact has the partnership with Australian Ethical had for Food Frontier?
Australian Ethical’s partnership with Food Frontier has powered our efforts to generate interest, understanding and investment in alternative proteins. Without your support, many of our initiatives to date simply would not have been possible.
For example, we’ve been able to help grow and galvanise our region’s alternative proteins ecosystem through delivering resources, advice and introductions to start-ups, meat manufacturers and major retailers, along with facilitating industry roundtables to promote collaboration and problem-solving and hosting Australia’s first pitch event for alternative protein start-ups.
Australian Ethical’s willingness to back new and innovative system-change initiatives is a refreshing and commendable demonstration of philanthropic leadership.