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A new land dividend: opportunity of alternative proteins in Europe

Green alliance report cover for a new land dividend

This report by the Green Alliance explores potential uses for land that is assumed to become available as diets shift to more plant based sources of protein. It focuses on the potential of alternative proteins from plant based foods, precision fermentation and cultivated meat to reduce the demand on land which is increasingly facing pressure from other needs. It seeks to contribute to policy recommendations on future land use.


This report from the Green Alliance, a think tank and charity concerned with UK environmental issues, focuses on the opportunity of alternative proteins in Europe to contribute to meeting environmental sustainability targets. The report is concerned with what to do with the land that is assumed to be available as a result of potential and projected dietary transitions away from animal source proteins to plant sourced proteins. The report accepts previous research which finds that alternative proteins (plant based, precision fermentation and cultivated meat) require less land per unit of protein produced, even when factoring in the potential increased energy demands and subsequent land use required for these technologies. 

The report finds that there is potential for European policy to support the expansion and development of precision fermentation and cultivated meat. This could displace a significant proportion of the animal products that are consumed in Europe. The report models potential scenarios and finds that if two thirds of animal products currently consumed in Europe were replaced by these alternative proteins, 44% of the farmland in the European countries studied that is currently used for feed and grazing could be freed up and used for other purposes. They also find that overseas land use related to imported food would be reduced by 57%.

Figure 1: Current land use in ten European countries indicating most land being used for livestock production for domestic consumption.

Figure 1: Current land use in ten European countries indicating most land being used for livestock production for domestic consumption. 

The report suggests that governments could use the freed up land to grow more food domestically, expand natural habitats for native species and store more carbon, and increase the area of land devoted to agroecological or other ‘nature friendly’ forms of food production. The report outlines a ‘shared dividend’ policy which seeks to align all of these possibilities. 

The report highlights the increasing demands for land use across Europe, especially from ‘nature friendly’ agriculture and energy production. It calls for a reimagining of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) towards a reorientation which pays farmers and land managers for carbon removal and nature restoration, in addition to food production. The report outlines that alternative proteins are a critical component of this reimagining as they have the potential to free up land for other uses and balance trade-offs in balancing food, climate, nature and rural economic goals. 

The report calls on governments to acknowledge the role of alternative proteins in meeting these goals. It also calls for rural policy that anticipates these potential land use changes which support farmers to change how they use their land in a fair, secure and long-term oriented way. These policy recommendations hinge on the assumption that the public will dramatically increase their consumption of alternative proteins and accept new items into their diets within a relatively short time frame. 


Collas, L. and Benton, D., 2024. A new land dividend: the opportunity of alternative proteins in Europe. Green Alliance.

Read more here. See also the TABLE podcast series Meat: the four futures

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