The alternative meat movement is expected to become a top food trend in the coming years, but real meat companies do not necessarily need to worry in the near term, according to a new study from CoBank.  Protein products derived from plants, insects and cultured meats is unlikely to have a “marked effect” on traditional animal protein through the next decade, CoBank economist Trevor Amen said.

CoBank, based in Colorado, is a cooperative bank servicing agribusiness and a member of the Farm Credit System. CoBank said the effects of meatless meat development are not expected to be significant on current livestock and poultry demand.   The road to commercial viability, consumer acceptance, technological and regulatory hurdles are among the obstacles for cultured meat.  In addition, cultured meat developers are in a race to match price and quality to traditional meat offerings.  Products currently in development are prohibitively expensive and years away from widespread commercial viability.

“The future success of alternative meat lies squarely with rising global demand for protein rather than a battle for the existing market share of animal protein food products,” Trevor Amen, an economist with CoBank, said.  “Rising global incomes will continue to drive consumers to a higher protein diet.  Global gross domestic product is projected to grow by $38 trillion from 2016 to 2030, generating a 46-percent increase in meat and poultry consumption.

“The road to commercial viability and consumer acceptance of cultured meat is long and this type of product is unlikely to have a marketed effect on traditional animal protein demand through at least the next decade, Amen said.

“The timeline for commercial viability of cultured meat products remains the greatest unknown,” Amen said.  “The consensus projection points to an initial market introduction is the next three to five years, most likely in restaurants and specialty stores and offered at a premium price to traditional meat offering.  It will take another three to five years beyond that for supermarkets to offer these products,” Amen said.

Cultured meat products currently are prohibitively expensive and will require a regulatory framework before entering the market, CoBank added.  The Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are closely monitoring developments in the cultured meat industry.  It is unlikely that the agencies will rule on terminology that can be used to describe and market cultured meat until the technology is more developed.

And while the alternative protein category will grow in the coming years, it will be overshadowed by the current retail market size of $49 billion in annual sales for all meat and poultry categories, the CoBank report said.