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Consensus is building across the scientific, environmental and public health communities that a radical shift away from excessive meat-eating patterns is urgently needed to tackle the unsustainability of the livestock sector.

Recognizing the scale of the challenge ahead, public policymakers, civil society and innovators have increasingly sought to prompt shifts in consumer food choices, away from the most resource-intensive meat products and towards more sustainable alternatives.

Meat analogues – plant-based ‘meat’ and cultured meat – mark a departure from traditional meat alternatives. Both are intended to be indistinguishable from – and, in the case of cultured meat, biologically equivalent to – animal-derived meat and are marketed principally at meat-eaters.

Innovation and investment in meat analogues have increased significantly, but the direction and pace of growth in the meat analogue industry will depend upon a multitude of factors, including public acceptance, civil society support and incumbent industry responses.

Policymakers in the EU, where many of the frontrunners in plant-based ‘meat’ and culturedmeat innovation are located, will need to respond imminently to new production methods and products. The decisions that they take now – on the regulation, labelling and marketing of meat analogues, for example – will have a significant influence on the industry’s direction and pace of growth.

Decisions on labelling requirements for meat analogues will be particularly important in determining consumer acceptance of plant-based ‘meat’ and cultured meat as substitutes for animal-derived meat. These decisions will be based not only on technical factors but on political considerations of the future of the meat industry in the EU.

In order to meet its climate change commitments, the EU will need to change European eating patterns, including a reduction in meat consumption. Meat analogues have the potential to contribute to existing EU climate mitigation strategies and EU priority policy initiatives in areas including reduced antibiotic use, improved public health and sustainable resource management. To achieve this, EU policymakers will need to promote a clear, transparent and inclusive regulatory environment and invest public capital in research, development and commercialization.

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