Call for ‘transparency’ and ‘accuracy’ in marketing and labelling of meat alternatives

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics is calling for transparency in the labelling and marketing of meat alternatives to avoid confusing consumers.

Hugh Whittall, director of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, said more evidence is required to determine if meat alternatives “really are more sustainable and healthier than conventional meat in the long-term”.

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics’ latest briefing note takes a closer look at the ethical issues raised by developments in creating meat alternatives, including their implications for health, the environment and animal welfare, and their potential role in the broader food system.

“Some meat alternatives offer health benefits over conventional meat, such as providing fibre and less cholesterol. However, these products are usually highly processed and can contain the same amount of calories and saturated fat as beef burgers, and high levels of sodium,” the report’s authors wrote.

He added: “Meat alternatives look promising in terms of taking up fewer natural resources than intensive livestock farming, although this will depend on the energy requirements of production and whether the ingredients used involve intensive crop agriculture. There is the possibility that the availability of meat alternatives might increase people’s overall consumption of meat and meat-like products, which could have implications for the environment and health.

“It might be that people aren’t worried if these products aren’t any healthier than meat, if they are eating them as part of a balanced diet. But we need transparency and accuracy in marketing and labelling so that people are not misled or confused. As meat alternatives become more like meat, and cultured meat reaches the market, the potential of these products to disrupt meat production could be ground-shifting and something to be monitored over the coming decade.”

The briefing note highlights that meat alternatives are just one approach to try to reduce the impact of intensive livestock farming and eliminating the need to slaughter animals for meat.

They should be considered alongside other potential solutions for achieving food sustainability, such as educational initiatives to reduce meat consumption and waste across the food system; increasing the consumption of minimally-processed plant-based diets; alternative sources of protein such as insects; as livestock feed or in food products; more sustainable farming methods and addressing fair distribution of food resources for people across the world.


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