By the same authors

Could consumption of insects, cultured meat or imitation meat reduce global agricultural land use?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • Peter Alexander
  • Calum Brown
  • Almut Arneth
  • Clare Dias
  • John Finnigan
  • Dominic Moran
  • Mark D. A. Rounsevell


Publication details

JournalGlobal Food Security
DateAccepted/In press - 8 Apr 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 22 Apr 2017
Early online date22/04/17
Original languageEnglish


Animal products, i.e. meat, milk and eggs, provide an important component in global diets, but livestock
dominate agricultural land use by area and are a major source of greenhouse gases. Cultural and personal
associations with animal product consumption create barriers to moderating consumption, and hence reduced
environmental impacts. Here we review alternatives to conventional animal products, including cultured meat,
imitation meat and insects (i.e. entomophagy), and explore the potential change in global agricultural land
requirements associated with each alternative. Stylised transformative consumption scenarios where half of
current conventional animal products are substituted to provide at least equal protein and calories are
considered. The analysis also considers and compares the agricultural land area given shifts between
conventional animal product consumption. The results suggest that imitation meat and insects have the highest
land use efficiency, but the land use requirements are only slightly greater for eggs and poultry meat. The
efficiency of insects and their ability to convert agricultural by-products and food waste into food, suggests
further research into insect production is warranted. Cultured meat does not appear to offer substantial benefits
over poultry meat or eggs, with similar conversion efficiency, but higher direct energy requirements.
Comparison with the land use savings from reduced consumer waste, including over-consumption, suggests
greater benefits could be achieved from alternative dietary transformations considered. We conclude that
although a diet with lower rates of animal product consumption is likely to create the greatest reduction in
agricultural land, a mix of smaller changes in consumer behaviour, such as replacing beef with chicken, reducing
food waste and potentially introducing insects more commonly into diets, would also achieve land savings and a
more sustainable food system.

Bibliographical note

© 2017 The Authors

    Research areas

  • Food Chain, insects , meat substitutes

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