With beef sales falling, can the home of Angus reinvent the protein industry?

With beef sales falling, can the home of Angus reinvent the protein industry?

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Scotland – a country famous for its history,   beautiful landscape, golf,  whiskey and of course food. Come on Scotland. Amongst the nation’s culinary delights,  its beef has global recognition. Scottish cattle breeds are famous  and have been adopted and bred all around the world. They’ve even inspired  restaurant chains from London to California. But unfortunately for the Scottish meat  industry, global beef and veal consumption is trending downwards, even as demand  for meat grows in developing economies. One likely contributing factor is  how terrible it is for the planet. In fact, when it comes to food, beef  is one of the biggest offenders. This chart shows how much greenhouse gas is  emitted per kilogram by different foods across the supply chain. Nuts and citrus fruits emit  the least emissions, while eggs and fish have a comparatively moderate level of emissions.  But the largest emissions of greenhouse gases, particularly methane, comes from lamb and beef. Here in Scotland, cows are big business. But they’re also a big problem for the  environment. So, could our carbon intensive  
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Aberdeen Angus one day be off the menu, and if  so, what’s going to be on our plates instead? These cows will probably all stand up and run  through that gate the minute we go in, but we’ll see how we get on. How many are in this field, about 20? So, there’s twenty-five in  here, yeah, these are all cows. So, they’ve all had calves before,  they’re all in calf again. So, they’ll have their calves next spring. Kate Rowell is chair of Quality Meat Scotland, a body set up to support the Scottish red  meat sector and improve its efficiency and profitability, while maximizing its contribution  to Scotland's economy. She’s also a cattle farmer. I'm a farmer here in the Scottish Borders, sixth  generation farmer on this fantastic farm here. And as primary producers of the raw materials,  farmers are really there to help grow the food and drink economy and to contribute to that  increase in the Scottish domestic income. So how important is Scottish  beef to the Scottish economy? 70% of the cows in Scotland are beef cows and  only 30% are dairy cows. This is the highest
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ratio of beef to dairy cows in Europe. The  cattle sector alone accounts for (24%) about a quarter of Scotland’s agricultural output,  worth about 849 million pounds Scotland’s red meat processing industry supports 3,000  jobs and £77 million in salaries. Sales of red meat help contribute to all sorts  of things in the rural economy. So it's not just the farmers who are producing them. It's  all the other businesses that are associated: the feed merchants, the vets, the auctioneers,  the hauliers, all those sorts of people depend on the red meat sector in Scotland and in the  U.K. It is such an enormous part of the rural economy throughout the country. When you look at climate change, is it something that your industry thinks about, how  you're going to reduce your carbon footprint? Yeah, absolutely. That is all  the talk there is just now. The biggest challenge for all of us, is the  weather, it is the climate. And as farmers on the ground, we are absolutely aware on a very intimate  level that there is a climate emergency. You know,
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every farmer is seeing the differences  and what's happening on the ground. Things like the soil, possibly in the past, we  haven't paid as much attention to it as we should. And there is evidence that soils across  the world are getting degraded. So, we need to pay really close attention, we need  to measure, we need to take samples and see what's in the soil, what needs to be added and  if we can do all those things that make the soil as healthy as possible, it's going  to store as much carbon as possible. The earth’s soil removes about a quarter of the  world’s fossil fuel emissions every year. It’s estimated to store more than three times the  amount of carbon in the atmosphere and four times the amount stored in plants and animals. And while soil can be great for storing carbon, it often lacks the capability and suitability for  growing crops. That’s due to a number of factors, including steep terrain, an adverse climate  or the lack of freshwater irrigation. So often the chat is to, grow more  vegetables, grow more grains. In these fields here we can't do that. The quality  of the ground is not enough to do that.
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So, what we can do is we can grow grass, and that's the same for over  80% of the farms in Scotland And obviously, as people, as humans, we  can’t eat that. We can do nothing with it but these amazing animals out here, the sheep  and cattle, can eat that grass, and then turn it into a food source for us. And that's really  the sustainable part of Scottish farming. True environmental sustainability, however,  also has to take into consideration the  sector’s impact on climate change. Fifty miles  away in Glasgow, a food company called Enough is attempting to tackle feeding a growing  population while also providing a solution to ‘the unsustainable impact of sole  reliance on traditional protein farming’. The process starts from here, so there is water,  glucose and some other salts and minerals. So this is the fermenter, it goes through heat  treatment and then it goes through the decanter centrifuge here. The solids are separated  from the liquid, the solids is what we take from under the decanter and that’s  our Abunda micro-protein.
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We make what we believe is the most  sustainable source of food protein. It's micro-protein, which is using fungi, adding  a glucose feedstock, so any fermentable sugar and that grows the fungi into whole biomass and  as long as you give it all of its food sources, so a carbon nitrogen oxygenation, it grows very  happily, and it grows on a continuous basis. Enough is one of the first synthetic  protein companies borne out of the increasing global demand for animal-based protein. In 2020, human beings ate 574  million metric tons worth of meat, seafood, dairy and eggs. That's  roughly 75 kilograms per person. And the amount of protein being consumed is  only set to grow, particularly in developing   markets. This rising demand coupled with  the environmental costs of producing all   these animals has helped the alternative  protein market move into the mainstream. Around 13 million metric tons of alternative  proteins were eaten in 2020, just 2% of the animal protein market. But according to the Boston  Consulting Group, consumption is set to increase
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seven times to 97 million metric tons by 2035. The protein transition, or the protein crisis that we're facing, has really  emerged in the last five years. So we need to do it without the negative  aspects of intensive animal farming and with a high-quality product that tastes  delicious and meets consumer’s needs. But does it taste delicious? The beauty of it is it's pale in color, right? It's fairly neutral in taste, and  you can make all sorts of stuff with it. Can I try? Feel free. That's quite a big bit there. That is a big bit. You're going full on there. Driving straight in. So, you’re not getting much taste. I think you won't get much taste,  you will get a bit of fibre and bite. The texture is very similar to  what you would get with chicken. With a little bit of fat, a little  bit of potato protein to help bind it and a little bit of flavour. It gets  to chicken breast in a fairly easy way and it’s got that fibrosity of chicken  you can just tell, it tastes like that. I wonder if I was doing a taste test whether I  could tell the difference and probably not. Many meat producers have questioned the  health benefits of meat imitations such
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as plant-based burgers. Critics have campaigned  against what they call ‘ultra-processed’ food, listing all the ingredients  that go into fake meat. But plant-based burgers and synthetic  burgers are two different things. Producing synthetic protein is relatively quick.  The fungi biomass doubles in size every six hours and Enough are moving into a large-scale  production facility which will be able to make five or six cows worth of protein every day. In terms of mince, a burger, we will add some flavourings again, some oils  but it's everyday processing. That’s really good. I like that one. I like that one a lot. When we talk about the meat industry and   a lot of the meat being produced mass scale, think  of brands like McDonalds and Burger King all over the world, selling millions and millions  of burgers, does that make this product, the burger product more exciting because  it could infiltrate that market space? We're competing with the gristly end of the  fairly expensive animal so being able to make a
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product which doesn't have some of the  baggage of the existing product. That's where I think the scale ambition is unparalleled. Do you see sustainable protein as a supplement to traditional meat and other plant-based diets?  Or do you want to replace the meat industry? We crave making something that tastes as  good as the animal and costs the same or less than the animal and if the choice is I  can have the thing that tastes as good but doesn't kill the planet and doesn't have ethical  challenges, I think that market will prevail. Many people would say, we just shouldn't be  eating meat at all because of those emissions. What would be your argument against that? So you're absolutely right. Nobody is trying to deny that cattle and sheep do produce methane.  But also, the one thing that we haven't touched on yet is biodiversity. And you've got to look  at those two things in sync. Up on the hills, you really need grazing animals to help with  the natural ecosystem. Down here, you can see we've got woods, we've got hedges, farmers as  a whole are certainly on the journey to try and
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make sure that they're addressing that crisis,  alongside the climate crisis. We can’t focus too much on one and not the other, or else we're  going to end up with unintended consequences. Synthetic protein joins the new wave of  advanced farming methods and equipment that is needed to meet the world’s future food needs. If the world is going to eat less meat, other types of food will need to replace it. Plant based  diets and synthetic protein may fill that void, but replacing the jobs and the income that comes  from a vast meat industry may be more difficult.

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