Open to change? ProVeg pushes for farmers to transition from livestock to alternative proteins
16 Aug 2022 --- Convincing farmers to ditch livestock and shift to growing alternative protein crops is doable but can’t happen immediately – it needs careful management and massive funding to help farmers feel secure enough to take the plunge. This is the assertion from a new ProVeg report examining how this major transition can happen in reality and be financially viable on a large scale and around the world.
The bold move away from livestock for a generational farmer would be a daunting task. Such a transition comes with risks and complications, factors recognized by ProVeg in its report.
However, a transition to alternative-protein production presents a huge opportunity for farmers at a time when climate change is becoming a major threat to farming livelihoods.
And, since alternative proteins come in so many different forms, solutions can be tailored to the needs of specific farms as well as end consumers, the organization affirms.
Just some of the examples on the table include fermentation-derived protein, cultured meat and algae aquaculture as well as growing pulses, legumes, seeds, beans, grains and so on.
ProVeg gauged the opinions of thousands of farmers by conducting detailed interviews with 20 international farming organizations that collectively represent 300,000 farmers, mainly in Europe and the US, on the topic of a transition.
In an exclusive interview with FoodIngredientsFirst, Stephanie Jaczniakowska-McGirr, international director of corporate engagement, explains how this transition could work in real-time and dives into some of the feedback received from the farming population – who, ProVeg says, are open to change.
“Transitioning is certainly not a simple, or one-size fits all process, however it may be a necessary one if we want to work toward more sustainable food systems,” she says.
“From our interviews we found that one of the challenges farmers face is being able to ccess the resources and knowledge needed to grow alternative proteins. However, the main challenge and concern for farmers is the financial viability of transitioning to alternative proteins.”
“As well as financing the transition itself, which may include initial yield uncertainties, and dependency on new machinery, there is also a need to find and secure long-term buying agreements with food producers.”
Moreover, governmental policies would need to reform to enable a level playing field on subsidies and taxes for sustainable produce, stresses Jaczniakowska-McGirr.
The timeline of a major transition into alternative proteins is dictated, to some extent, by the willingness of governments to introduce supportive policies and legislation to make a transition easier.
“However, the bottom line is that there is an increasingly urgent need for us to move away from animal agriculture in order to mitigate the effects of climate change,” she -McGirr continues.
“So in terms of timelines, we are calling for support as soon as possible to enable a shift to more plant-based protein production. Overall, the ProVeg mission is to reduce global meat consumption by 50% by 2040.”
What alternative proteins could farmers turn to?
According to ProVeg’s survey, farmers are worried about climate change and have to deal with its effect on their yields. But it’s not as simple as just stopping livestock farming immediately in order to reduce its environmental impact.
To successfully transition away from animal agriculture, farmers’ needs have to be met and their voices heard, the report notes.
But if they move away from meat, what exactly could they grow?
“Alternative proteins are made from plants, fungi and tissue culture. Peas are a particularly good source of protein for use in plant-based meat alternative products and wheat is also used in plant-based meat. Other alternative proteins include soybean, rice protein, hemp seed and chia seeds,” Jaczniakowska-McGirr says.
“Depending on the soil and other farm conditions, we’d suggest farmers grow pulses such as peas as the market for this alternative protein particularly is growing.”
ProVeg is also part of the Smart Protein Project which is exploring the suitability, profitability and potential yields of quinoa, fava beans, lentils, and chickpeas grown across different regions of Europe.
There are several other EU-funded projects exploring the potential of alternative protein sources and many have objectives around ensuring the viability of these on farm land across Europe, ProVeg notes.
Demand for pea at “all-time high”
Backing up Jaczniakowska-McGirr assertions about the potential growth in the pea protein space, there has been an abundance of innovation, R&D and, crucially, investment, in pea proteins by some of the major players in the F&B industry.
For example, Roquette launched an investment program to ensure that the plant protein supply is secure, safe and sustainable, including opening the world’s largest pea protein plant in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Canada.
In May, Canadian plant-based company PIP International unveiled “Ultimate Pea Protein,” a plant protein with an elevated appearance and functionality for use in plant-based food. The company uses coercion technology to coax the proteins to separate without damaging their functional properties.
Indictivative of a dairy-centric company of more than 150 years moving into the plant-based protein arena, late last year FrieslandCampina Ingredients launched two powder solutions developed with AGT Foods.
The Plantaris range features Plantaris Pea Isolate 85 A and Plantaris Faba Isolate 90 A. Both solutions have been designed to overcome common formulation challenges associated with plant proteins – particularly pea proteins flavor off-notes.
Proveg’s report also explores a range of other alternative-protein solutions, along with farming perspectives on each of them. These include fermentation-derived protein, cultured meat and algae aquaculture.
“These alternative proteins are at an earlier stage than the plant-based proteins, but our report explains how farmers can explore these options as well,” states Jaczniakowska-McGirr.
Shouldering the financial burden
By promoting both public and private investment in sustainable agriculture, transitions could become more viable. Another potential solution for farmers involves the formulation of farming cooperatives that pool finances.
“One of the transition case studies in our report is that of Northwood Farm which received support from the organization Farmers for Stock-Free Farming to help them go from dairy farming to biocyclic vegan agriculture,” she notes.
“Their website has a list of funding sources available for farmers to help with transitioning to farming without the need for animals. We’re also calling on plant-based food manufacturers to partner with transitioning farmers to help support their transition with long-term supply agreements.”
Insists that farmers are pragmatic and open to change if they know that their livelihoods will be protected.
“In order to promote the transition to alternative proteins, farmers must be equipped with knowledge that will guarantee confidence in their decision. This includes information about new methods and opportunities, as well as knowledge of both the local and global market for plant protein.
“If this knowledge is made more easily accessible, it can proliferate horizontally within farming communities and promote farmer-led solutions,” Jaczniakowska-McGirr concludes.
By Gaynor Selby
To contact our editorial team please email us at email@example.com
Subscribe now to receive the latest news directly into your inbox.