That's the conclusion drawn by a new report from consultancy firm AT Kearney, which predicts that 60 percent of "meat" in 2040 won't come from slaughtered animals. Instead, it will come from either lab-grown meat or plant-based replacements like Beyond Meat or Impossible Burger.
"The shift towards flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan lifestyles is undeniable, with many consumers cutting down on their meat consumption as a result of becoming more conscious towards the environment and animal welfare," AT Kearney partner Carsten Gerhardt told The Guardian. "For passionate meat-eaters, the predicted rise of cultured meat products means that they still get to enjoy the same diet they always have, but without the same environmental and animal cost attached."
The report, which was based on interviews with industry experts, predicts that 35 percent of meat sold in 2040 will be "cultured" or produced "through exponential cell growth in bioreactors," The Independent reported. While this kind of meat is not yet commercially available, the report predicts it will ultimately succeed because it is closer in taste to conventional meat. On the other hand, 25 percent of meat will be plant-based replacements by 2040, The Guardian reported.
"Novel vegan meat replacements will be most relevant in the transition phase toward cultured meat, whereas cultured meat will win in the long run," the report authors concluded.
The report notes that conventional meat will be inefficient at feeding a growing population. Almost half of the world's agriculture goes to feeding livestock, while only 37 percent of crops are grown directly for human consumption. Only around 15 percent of the plant calories fed to animals are consumed by humans as meat, while three-quarters of the calories that go into producing cultured and vegan meat are then consumed by humans, according to The Guardian.
The report estimates that around $1 billion has already been invested in vegan meat replacements.
"With the advantages of novel vegan meat replacements and cultured meat over conventionally produced meat, it is only a matter of time before they capture a substantial market share." AT Kearney wrote.
Rosie Wardle of the Jeremy Coller Foundation, a sustainable food charity, told The Guardian she thought the report's predictions might even be conservative.
"The shift to more sustainable patterns of protein consumption is already under way, driven by consumers, investors and entrepreneurs, and even pulling in the world's biggest meat companies," she said. "If anything, predictions that 60 percent of the world's 'meat' will not come from slaughtered animals in 20 years' time may be an underestimation."