Within the last 5 years the synthetic production of meat and other animal products has gone from science fiction to reality. Everything from burger meat to egg whites can now be produced without the involvement of a living animal, with many products likely to become commercially available in the next decade. This technology has the potential to enhance food security, reduce the need for industrial agriculture, lower climate gas emissions, promote environmental sustainability, and create new knowledge-based industries for food production in Norway.
However, it is also likely to prove extremely disruptive to existing bio-based industries. For example, start-ups are already working on on the production of synthetic salmon and other fish, while the synthetic production of milk and meat is likely to eventually represent a direct challenge to Norway’s agriculture and aquaculture sectors. In July 2019 “Perfect Day” produced the first synthetic animal protein to be sold commerically as a food product. Its 1000 units of synthetic ice cream – made with cow milk proteins produced by a yeast – sold out within 24 hours. Although synthetic production facilities are currently too small to challenge conventional animal protein industries, research is underway to both improve manufacturing processes and increase the scale of production. Most startups working in the area predict synthetic meat, fish and milk will be with us in the next decade.
The aim of PROTEIN2.0 is to assist Norway prepare for this eventuality by assessing the likely impacts, outcomes and opportunities provided by the technology. The project focuses on evaluating the protein technologies, assessing consumer response to the concept of consuming synthetic animal protein, and understanding the likely impact of the technology on global food systems. We then use these evaluations to inform economic and social simulation models for Norway which will, with user guidance, (a) explore the effect of synthetic proteins on the wider economy and biosectors, and (b) create scenarios of change for evaluation. Scenario evaluation will lead to recommendations for response.
The main outcome of the project will be to assist Norway to prepare for the arrival of synthetic animal proteins in the coming decades.