Meat & Livestock News

New Zealand’s Shift Towards Alternative Proteins

New Zealand faces crucial changes in its food export markets due to advancements in food technology and the emergence of alternative proteins.

Impact on Land Use

A recent study titled ‘Protein Futures: Future Scenarios for Land Use in Aotearoa New Zealand’ suggests a potential 35% reduction in dairyland use. This shift could profoundly affect pastoral land utilisation, driven by four developed scenarios reflecting varying rates of technological adoption and consumer demand.

Scenario Insights

  1. Baseline Scenario – Continues with current trends without significant changes.
  2. Precision Fermentation Growth – Sees a substantial rise in precision fermentation technologies alongside steady demand for plant proteins.
  3. Plant-Based Surge – Plant-based products increase in popularity while easing some barriers to precision fermentation and cellular meats.
  4. All Proteins Surge – A comprehensive adoption across all alternative protein forms.

Economic and Environmental Consequences

Stuart Ford from the AgriBusiness Group highlighted that even a 10% to 22% market share for alternative proteins by 2035 would impact New Zealand’s economy and environment. The country must strategize to engage in the global alternative proteins market to bolster GDP growth while enhancing environmental outcomes.

Significant Changes

  • The study predicts:
  • A major decrease in dairy farming land.
  • Increased beef production by 22% under precision fermentation.
  • Arable land could see a 21% rise due to heightened demand for specific crops.

Forestry Expansion

Forestry land is also expected to grow significantly, especially under the third and fourth scenarios, reflecting shifts from traditional farming to forestry.

Economic Implications

  • Scenario 2: Predicts a $7.994 billion economic loss.
  • Scenario 3: Offers the best outcome with a $6.9 billion gain and additional value creation.
  • Scenario 4: Presents a balanced but challenging adjustment in land use.

Environmental Impact

Scenarios 2 and 3 show similar reductions in nitrogen, phosphorus, and greenhouse gases, while the fourth scenario offers the most environmental benefits.

Expert Opinions

Professor Hugh Campbell from the University of Otago stresses the complex nature of these impacts, noting the significant environmental and operational implications of these shifts. Scenario 4 alone could meet New Zealand’s agricultural greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Industry Responses

Jon Manhire of the AgriBusiness Group remarked that dairy ingredients might be among the first impacted by these technologies, potentially reshaping New Zealand’s export landscape. However, this shift wouldn’t necessarily lead to the downfall of major companies like Fonterra, which is already investing in precision fermentation.

As New Zealand navigates these potential futures, staying informed and proactive is crucial. Ignoring these trends could be a grave mistake for the agricultural sector. The overarching message: keep an eye on developments and be ready to adapt.