About the project

Meat: the four futures is a project and podcast about the polarised debate on meat. It aims to create a deeper understanding of scientific facts and increase the understanding of different types of arguments in this debate.

The project is initiated by SLU Future Food and run by TABLE, a collaboration between the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Wageningen University & Research (WUR) and the University of Oxford.

Evidence-based communication

Food sits at the heart of the many intersecting challenges we face today, including global malnutrition, climate change, biodiversity loss and inequality. These problems demand urgent action - and this means action on food.


One kind of food attracts a particular degree of attention and investment from interest groups on both sides of the debate. Why the heightened focus on this food? Because it tastes good, is culturally valued, and contains a range of nutrients both beneficial and problematic. It also uses a lot of land, impacts global biodiversity, and generates large quantities of climate changing emissions. That food is meat.


Meat is sometimes implicated as a problem, and other times seen as a key to the solution, since it’s entangled not only in environmental issues and public health, but also in discussions around animal welfare, cultural values and livelihoods. It is therefore not surprising that debates about how much meat we should eat, and how future livestock production should develop, are becoming increasingly intense and polarised.


For some, raising animals and meat eating is a key driver of several, pressing food systems challenges; for others getting livestock ‘right’ holds the key to managing diverse landscapes and reducing global malnutrition. Which view is right? Can they both be right and both be wrong sometimes and in some places? How can we move beyond ideological deadlock?


This project, funded by FORMAS – the Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development – supported by the Future Food platform at Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and led by TABLE, is an attempt at addressing these difficult questions. Meat the four futures aims to provoke thought, challenge assumptions and offer urgent, clear evidence-based communication on this topic.



One podcast - four contrasting future scenarios

The project aim is to reduce polarisation in debates about livestock production and meat eating, by communicating the latest scientific evidence and engaging different perspectives through moderated dialogues. These dialogues will be synthesized and shared in a podcast series, published between April and June 2023.

The possibilities of four contrasting future scenarios will be discussed: 1) Plant-based 'no meat'; 2) Less meat; 3) Alternative 'meat'; and 4) Efficient meat 2.0. These four futures are adapted from Tara Garnett's essay Gut feelings and possible tomorrows.



A diversity of voices

The podcast will include various perspectives where food systems experts, agricultural researchers, animal scientists, economists, dietitians, behavioural scientists, and ecologists will be in conversation with farmers, food producers, and trade and interest groups that impact future developments.


Together they will unpack the promises and pitfalls associated with each future.



 A dialogue platform and report

The podcast will be complemented by a digital dialogue platform to create the conditions for dynamic communication and continued conversations. At the end of the project, a summary report will be published that highlights the most important evidence and value-based arguments that support and contradict the different future scenarios, as well as areas where they overlap.



A quiz

As a complement to the podcast and dialogue forum, a questionnaire has been developed, which allows participants to see which future scenario most closely aligns with their values. All participants' points will be illustrated anonymously so that everyone can see how they end up in relation to others. Do you already know in which corner you will land?


Take the quiz to find out!



What are our objectives?

The project seeks to: 1) sort out evidence based arguments from arguments expressing values where possible, 2) find common ground while letting different perspectives’ best arguments be heard, and 3) identify where the REAL disagreements and tradeoffs lie.




Who do we want to reach?

The project is primarily aimed at formal and informal decision-makers, across the food value chain, who have influence over the food system of the future, e.g. politicians, industry, food producers, investors and NGOs.



Who is behind this project?

The project is initiated by SLU Future Food and run by TABLE, a collaboration between the University of Oxford, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and Wageningen University and Research (WUR).

You can read more about how TABLE is funded here.


 Where do these the four futures come from?

The four futures that are explored in this project evolved from the Gut feelings and possible tomorrows essay by TABLE director Tara Garnett in 2015. You can read the thinkpiece here.


You can read other Frequently Asked Questions.