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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
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
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,
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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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