Global demand for meat is set to increase by at least 50 percent by 2050

Our current meat production system significantly drives global greenhouse gas emissions. Plant-based and cultivated meat are a critical climate solution for satisfying the growing demand for meat with a fraction of the emissions of industrial animal agriculture.

It will be both scientifically and mathematically impossible for governments to meet obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement to decarbonize the global economy unless the amount of meat produced via conventional animal agriculture goes down. As the milestone year of 2030 nears, significant and rapid reductions in emissions across all sectors are needed to keep global warming below the 1.5℃ threshold.

Alternative proteins are a crucial aspect of how we will meet this need while also meeting growing global demand. Compared with conventional meat, plant-based meat causes up to 98% less emissions, and cultivated meat could cause up to 92% less. Like eliminating fossil fuels and combustion engines, alternative meat-making methods require government support. Around the world, governments can lead the way by funding science, creating scientific innovation centers, and incentivizing private sector R&D and private sector manufacturing and infrastructure build-up focused on alternative meat production methods.

Alternative proteins are to agriculture as renewables are to energy—the future.

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Environmental benefits of alt proteins

How eco-friendly are plant-based and cultivated meats? Explore their climate impacts and resource requirements relative to conventional meat.

Alternative proteins 101

There are three main categories of alternative proteins: plant-based, fermentation-derived, and cultivated. Just as the goal with renewable energy and electric vehicles is to make them interchangeable with conventional energy and combustion-powered vehicles, so too are alternative proteins focused on winning in the marketplace.

  • Plant-based meat looks, tastes, and cooks like conventional meat, but is made entirely from plants. It can cut emissions by as much as 98 percent and uses up to 96 percent less land than conventional meat.1-6
  • Fermentation is a powerful, flexible process for using microorganisms to produce alternative proteins. Used in food production for millennia, fermentation offers several advantages that can further increase the efficiency of the alt protein sector as a whole.
  • Cultivated meat is exactly the same as the beef, pork, chicken, and fish we eat today—but grown directly from animal cells, without antibiotics. It can cut emissions by 92 percent, and use up to 90 percent less land than conventional meat.7
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Plant-based meat

This is your guide to plant-based meat. Explore our tools, resources, and expert analysis of this field, from science to policy and markets.

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Cultivated meat

This is your guide to cultivated meat. Explore our tools, resources, and expert analysis of the cultivated meat industry.

Sliced grilled fungi-based steak on a bed of greens and vegetables, by meati foods


This is your guide to precision fermentation and whole biomass fermentation for alt protein production. Find resources, tools, and expert industry analysis here.

Learn more about alt proteins as a climate solution

From in-depth, data-driven reports and events to media statements, white papers, and blogs, our experts make the case for alternative proteins as a scalable solution that can address climate change caused by global food production. To meet growing global demand, meat production is estimated to increase by more than 50 percent by 2050. If the world is to achieve its climate, global health, food security, and biodiversity goals, making meat differently via alternative proteins (plant-based and cultivated meat) will be as essential as the global transition to renewable energy. 

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Environmental impacts of alternative proteins

Explore the environmental advantages of alternative proteins in diversifying the global food supply. With minimal land and water use, lower GHG emissions, and reduced pollutants, investing in alternative proteins ensures…

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A global protein transition is necessary to keep warming below 1.5°C

Learn why alternative protein innovation is crucial to meeting the Paris Agreement temperature target and how we can accelerate progress.

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Agriculture is at a climate crossroads. Alternative proteins are a global solution.

Learn how GFI is advocating for the inclusion of alternative proteins as a climate solution in federal policy and bringing increased visibility to what governments around the world are doing…

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IPCC: Plant-based and cultivated meat can play a critical role in halving global emissions by 2030

GFI calls for increased public funding for alternative proteins as the world’s top scientists recognize that agricultural innovation — specifically plant-based and cultivated meat — mitigates climate change, delivers co-benefits…

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Climate benefits of accelerating global production of alternative seafood

This white paper explores how plant-based and cultivated seafood could fill the growing seafood supply gap while mitigating climate change.

Alternative proteins in the media

Our experts, insights, and resources are sought and featured in leading global and national media outlets, enabling us to grow public support and political will for alternative proteins as a climate solution. 

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Outrage + Optimism: Hungry for Alternatives

GFI’s Bruce Friedrich unpacks the positive impact that alternative proteins can have on tackling the climate crisis, public health, and nature restoration.

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Governments have put $1 billion toward making better meat alternatives. A lot more is needed.

Vox featured GFI’s State of Global Policy Report, which highlights the need for increased government investment in alternative proteins.

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Meat grown from fungus? It could save the world’s forests.

GFI’s Dr. Liz Specht explains how eating meat made from microbes could stave off half the world’s deforestation — but at a certain point, the land-saving effect is diminished.

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How meat grown from animal cells could help tackle climate change

GFI’s Jessica Almy discusses landmark decision of the USDA’s approval of cultivated meat and its climate benefits.

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How we’ll eat in 2050

GFI’s Dr. Liz Specht talks to CNN about the major role alternative proteins play in the future of food.

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Support our climate-focused work 

Our work with scientists, businesses, and policymakers across the global food system is powered by philanthropy. Thanks to our donors, we are able to advance alternative proteins as a climate solution that is global, tractable, and high-impact.


Sources: 1. Khan, et al. (2019);  2. Heller, et al. (2018);  3. Kazer, et al. (2021); 4. Dettling, et al. (2016);  5. Saerens, et al. (2021); 6. Smetana, et al. (2021);  7. Sinke, et al. (2023).