Alternative proteins have caught consumer and media attention in recent years, but now, it is drawing interest from the government. Growing concern over the climate crisis and criticism of animal agriculture have pushed people to look for more sustainable and ethical food alternatives, and consumers are increasingly holding businesses and governments accountable for the dangers of animal agriculture.

Now a California Congressman is leading the charge on behalf of health-minded and sustainability caring consumers nationwide. Ro Khanna (D-CA) just led 10 members of Congress in petitioning the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide millions of dollars in funding for alternative protein research. The representatives sent the letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack on December 17, demanding investment in sustainable protein for the 2023 USDA Budget.

“Demand for protein is expected to rise as global population increases over the next three decades,” the letter to Vilsack states. “According to the United Nations, nearly ten percent of people in the world today are affected by hunger. Alternative proteins (plant-based and cultivated meat) can improve the sustainability and resiliency of our food systems. Growth in alternative proteins will create new economic opportunities for American farmers, new benefits for consumers, and help reduce agricultural emissions.”

The government investment would seek to better the world food system as companies and food tech companies begin to develop cheaper production methods for alternative proteins. The letter punctuates a successful year for plant-based and cultivated protein development. Previously, 15 House members and three Senators requested that Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry begin prioritizing alternative proteins as a climate crisis solution.

Beyond the petitions, the USDA announced that it would fund the creation of the National Institute for Cellular Agriculture at Tufts University. The government organization revealed that it would grant the university $10 million to research the sustainable protein source on October 15. The facility will be the first cultivated protein research facility.

“USDA’s historic funding for a National Institute for Cellular Agriculture is an important advancement for cultivated meat research and science,” Appropriations Committee Chair Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) said in a statement. “I am pleased that USDA’s leadership continues to recognize the important role these technologies can play in combating climate change and adding much-needed resiliency to our food system.”

Alongside the new budget considerations, Khanna’s letter included a demand that $50 million of the USDA’s American Rescue Plan Act will be dedicated to alternative protein research. The research money would help improve public health and reduce environmental damages. In relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, alternative protein reduces the likelihood of zoonotic disease outbreaks.

The Good Food Institute (GFI) applauded the representative’s call for alternative protein development as government support would help propel and optimize the sustainable protein industry. The global plant-based protein market alone is projected to reach $27 billion by 2030, according to a new report published on ResearchAndMarkets.com. The growth will be supported by increased investments from both public and private sources, higher awareness of animal agriculture’s impact on the environment, and rising demand for healthier foods.

“GFI applauds Rep. Khanna and his Congressional colleagues’ support of alternative protein research and the growing recognition of this powerful climate solution,” GFI Associate Director of Policy Michael Ryan said. “USDA’s continued leadership as a funder and supporter of plant-based and cultivated meat is laying the foundation for a more equitable food system that offers consumers appetizing and accessible protein choices that also address climate change, biodiversity, and key global health goals.”

Khanna’s letter aims to restructure the food production structures across the US in an effort to better combat climate change and food shortage. A report from RethinkX highlighted that people can cut carbon emissions by 90 percent by 2030 if carbon-intensive industries are replaced by cleaner, sustainable technologies. The report highlights the importance of alternative protein methods such as cellular agriculture and precision fermentation alongside plant-based industries needed to undercut meat and dairy production.

“The USDA’s support for new ways to produce meat can accelerate the development and scaling of sustainable agri-food systems that meet the growing demand for meat and contribute to a robust, resilient, climate-smart food and agricultural system,” Ryan said.

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