Dossier

Protein transition

Proteins form the building blocks of life on earth. Both the quantity and quality of food are critical for the health of humans and animals. At the moment, a considerable portion of our protein is consumed through animal products. Wageningen University & Research is looking for ways to increase the availability and diversity of proteins from the perspectives of various disciplines: food science, agricultural and production technology and consumer behaviour.

Why is a protein transition necessary?

With the world’s growing population and increasing prosperity, the demand for and ability to afford animal proteins is increasing. The production of animal proteins takes up a lot of space, of which we are running out. Another issue is that the amount of animal protein we consume in the western world is often excessive and leads to obesity. That is why we need to move towards a more sustainable model of protein production and consumption.

What are the alternatives?

Sustainable and economically attractive alternatives to meat:

  • plant-based proteins
  • insects
  • aquatic protein sources: seaweed, algae, duckweed
  • other methods of food processing
  • animal protein from circular systems

The Future of Proteins

Protein transition

Research steps protein transition

Wageningen University & Research is looking for ways to increase the availability of proteins from four research directions:

1. Technology routes to increased protein availability

    • Improved crops
    • Innovative aquatic production systems
    • Biosynthesis and recombinant proteins
    • Reduced food loss and waste

2. Production system redesigns

    • Animals in a circular system
    • New nitrogen cycles
    • Production as part of the living environment
    • Global entrepreneurship toward sustainable systems

3. Pillars of consumption shifts

    • A diverse palette of options
    • Consensus on a healthier aspiration
    • Improved plant-based alternatives
    • Attracting consumers to healthy & sustainable choices

4. Bad excuses for inaction

    • We only need to work on demand; supply will follow
    • We can change the whole system by adapting pricing
    • We require quantitative, authoritative between-source comparisons and international databases to proceed
    • We have time

Read more about our research: