• “I have never been to a seminar, where the discussion goes
    so deep around common industry challenges”
    Sten Estrup, Executive Vice President Christian Hansen, 2016

  • “An enormous learning experience”
    Gerald Wilfingseder, General Manager Gold Coin Group, 2016

  • “Excellent content, facilitation and format – outstanding”
    Tim Hart, CEO Ridley Corporation, 2016

  • “Tremendous opportunity to share experiences and perspectives”
    Simon Cheng, Managing Director BRF, 2016

  • “Thank you for the seminar, so much learning”
    Akiko Seyoum, CEO Orchid Business Group, 2016

  • “Much beyond my expectations – I will surely return”
    Gustavo Grobocopatel, Chairman Los Grobo, 2013

  • “Rich, useful, time extremely well invested”
    Stefano Vlahovic, CEO Produkti Pitania, 2011

  • “This is for people who want to get things done.”
    Hans Roelofs, CEO Refresco, 2009

  • “I have not been to an event yet where we got into the real issues so deep so fast.”
    Lennart Holm, CEO Perstorp, 2007

  • “There has not been one case that did not inspire me.”
    Wout Dekker, CEO Nutreco 2007

  • “Excellent. We should have had such a seminar much earlier”
    Hugh Grant, CEO Monsanto 2005

  • “It has been an inspiration, very well done, an audience of 50 likeminded peers that really ask relevant questions and it has helped me accelerate my thinking”
    Christoffer Lorenzen, EVP Chr. Hansen, 2017

  • “I did numerous studies, maybe hundreds of Harvard cases but this was one of the best I’ve ever read”
    Markus Länzlinger, CEO Migrolino, 2017

  • “Really enjoyed the seminar, very good cases, very good interactions, very practical, very lively and high-speed”
    Jeroen Wakkermann, CFO Nutreco, 2017

Quo Vadis Global Meat Industry 2050
The Challenge

The scourges of pestilence, famine, wars, and earthquakes have come to be regarded a blessing to overcrowded nations, since they serve to prune away the luxuriant growth of the human race
Tertullian, Historian of the Roman Empire, in De Anima, AD 209

The global meat industry is under pressure. Increasingly vocal civil society groups are calling for stringent curbs on meat consumption, and advocating for vegetarian and vegan lifestyles. In the affluent parts of the world, this movement is becoming mainstream. Regulators and governments are increasingly responding to these concerns. After tobacco and sugar, will meat become the third agricultural produce, whose consumption becomes socially disreputable, legally curtailed or even banned?

The argument against meat rests on four different, and largely unrelated, themes:

1. Today’s global population is 7.5 billion people, growing to around 10 billion in the year 2050. Even today’s level of human population can only be fed with substantial deployment of chemicals and technology on the fields. Agriculture is encroaching on natural habitats on every continent, threatening biodiversity and risking irretrievable extinction of species. The Cerrado and Amazon in Brazil or the tropical island of Borneo are prominent examples. Water shortages are a threat to humans and nature in many places. There are concerns that agriculture has already overstepped the limits of what planet Earth can produce on a sustainable basis, and even stronger concerns that these limits cannot support a further 60–70% expansion, which is estimated to be demanded by 10 billion people in 2050. Since the overwhelming majority of agricultural resources are used to feed animals in the livestock sector, a seemingly easy way to reduce the agricultural footprint would be to shift dietary patterns away from meat and towards plants. In this way, the agricultural production could be channelled directly towards plants. In this way, the agricultural production could be channelled directly to humans, instead of taking the indirect route via an animal’s stomach.

2. Meat can only be obtained by killing and slaughtering a warm-blooded animal: the three most important ones being cattle, pigs and chickens. Also turkeys, goats, sheep and camels are important livestock animals raised for slaughter. Both the industrialized conditions of raising these animals, and the slaughter of these socially highly developed and complex animals, is seen to be cruel and lacking respect for the individual animals and the species, according to some animal rights advocacy groups. Out of respect for humanitarian values, and animal rights derived from these, animals should therefore not be slaughtered for the benefit of human consumption—thus is the argumentation.

3. Cattle in particular are also blamed for being a notable contributor to global warming. Their digestive system incorporates methane-producing bacteria to help them process their low-energy feed of grasses into high energy nourishment. This methane is emitted via the cattle’s mouths and might contribute to the global methane budget in the atmosphere. Methane is considered a potent greenhouse gas, and thereby the global herd of about 1.4 billion cattle is seen as a factor in global warming. Reducing the intake of cattle-related products, primarily beef and dairy, would therefore be a contribution towards slowing down global warming.

4. Red meat is suspected to cause colon cancer and, potentially, other diseases related to cholesterol levels. Though no causal relationships could be established so far, the World Health Organization rated the consumption of processed red meat as a IARC Group 1 health risk (meaning there would be sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in humans, the same category in which also tobacco smoking and asbestos is listed). The consequence would be to lower the recommended levels of red meat levels.


This report analyses the future of the meat industry by looking at the veracity of each of the above claims. It is presented in four parts:

Part 1: How to Feed the World in 2050 – Four Resources and Innovation Driven Scenarios
Part 2: How Much Can Innovation Contribute to Improve the Efficiency and Animal Welfare of Food Protein Production?
Part 3: The Need to Clarify the Ethics of Meat
Part 4: Climate Change and Cancer – What the Numbers Say
The four parts will be published in four seperate papers in the course of 2018.

Executive Summary – Quo Vadis Global Meat Industry 2050
Reporting from the Frontiers of Science

The summary of the four parts of the entire report is:

Part 1: How to Feed the World in 2050 begins with the observation that the primary challenge of feeding the world in the year 2050 is concentrated on three population groups: sub-Saharan Africans, South Asians and children below the age of five years. These three groups suffer both in terms of quantity and quality of food already today, in particular by not having access to sufficient protein supply. Population growth from 7.5 today to 10 billion people in 2050 is mostly concentrated in Africa and South Asia, and will therefore aggravate this nutrition crisis further. A scenario analysis demonstrates that this need not be the case. Even with existing technology, and dietary preferences emphasizing livestock products of meat, dairy and egg for protein needs, there could be enough food production without needing more agricultural land than today. Recent new technologies would make the task even easier.

Even with existing technology, there could be enough food production without needing more agricultural land than today 

By contrast, a reduction of the global meat industry will make the nutrition crisis of these three groups worse, not better. While becoming vegan or vegetarian may be an affordable luxury lifestyle choice for the most affluent 10% of the global population, it contributes little or nothing to the improvement of the already current nutritional crisis of children below five, sub-Saharan Africans or South Asians, let alone the future burden. On the contrary, these three population groups critically depend on the protein delivered by the livestock sector, and would be disproportionately hurt by a global reduction of the meat industry. The argument that a reduction of global meat production is necessary, or even only helpful, towards feeding 10 billion people within sustainable resource limits is therefore not correct.

Part 2: How Much Innovation Can Contribute aims to show, with a case study methodology, the potential impact of the advent of recent technological advances in genetics, genomics, robotics, sensorics and artificial intelligence. It argues that, with these advances, it will be possible to provide sufficient and nutritious food to 10 billion people in the world while significantly reducing the footprint of agriculture in terms of land utilization, water consumption and environmental burden.

A reduction of the global meat industry will make the nutrition crisis of these three groups worse, not better

These technologies should be capable of overcoming the socio-economic hurdles that keep agricultural productivity depressed in African and Asian regions. The same technological advances will also enable the reduction or even elimination of animal’s psychological stress or physical pain, and thus be able to improve the conditions of animal welfare to unprecedented levels. They will naturally not eliminate the ultimate need to kill an animal for meat consumption. The achievement of resource sustainability and of cruelty-free animal raising – to the degree that it has not yet been achieved – is therefore a function of speed and acceptance of technology.

Part 3: The Need to Clarify the Ethics of Meat explores whether the deployment of these technologies requires the definition of an ethical position, and accountability for such ethics. Not everything that is allowed by the regulatory system is also acceptable to end consumers. Food is produced for consumption by humans, and for no other purpose. People increasingly demand the right to understand in what circumstances their food was produced, and be allowed to choose which of these circumstances they agree to for the food that is on their plate.

With these advances, it will be possible to provide sufficient and nutritious food to 10 billion people

Technology makes it possible to create such transparency. This might only be the first step. The second is for companies to define an ethical standard by which they want to conduct their business, and then use the transparency to create accountability against this standard. Companies that cannot make themselves accountable on their ethical position for food production circumstances may find it increasingly difficult to gain and maintain the trust of their final customer: the consumer who eats the food.

Part 4: Climate Change and Cancer shows that the scientific evidence for either cattle contributing to global warming, or processed red meat causing cancer, is still much underdeveloped and contradictory. Much evidence to the contrary exists as well. Without more dedicated research, it is premature to make claims that cattle are a risk to the global climate, and that processed meat is a risk to human health.  

Companies that cannot make themselves accountable on their ethical position
for food production circumstances may find it increasingly difficult to gain and maintain the trust of their final customer

© 2018
Zurich Institute of Business Education AG, Horgen, Switzerland (CEIBS Zurich)
All rights reserved. This report is developed for discussion only, and is not intended to serve as source of data. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored, transmitted or used without permission of Zurich Institute of Business Education AG, Horgen

author
Peer Ederer, CEIBS Zurich Campus

research support
Margaret Flaherty, CEIBS Zurich Campus

language advisor
Graham Look

layout
Sascha Kuriyama