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Processing the discourse over plant-based meat

Front cover for report titled Processing the discourse over plant-based meat from the Churchill fellowship.

This report, written by Jenny Chapman from the Churchill Fellowship, a UK fellowship programme which supports innovation across multiple fields and sectors, details concerns surrounding plant-based meat being “ultra-processed”. The author highlights how the “ultra-processed food” category, designed to identify if a food has been made in a factory or not, is being incorrectly used in nutrition science circles and has been used to suggest that all plant-based meat products are unhealthy.


The report covers four key issues related to plant-based meat and the ultra-processed food category and provides five recommendations to address them. The author begins by highlighting the current state of research and policy suggestions which call for a shift to more plant-based diets to achieve climate and net zero targets. Next, the report details how plant-based meats are both more nutritious and more sustainable than most real meat products. Then, the author discusses the benefits of “like-for-like” products, noting consumers are more likely to adopt plant-based meat alternatives if they easily fit within established purchasing, cooking, and eating habits. Finally, the author notes the concern surrounding many plant-based food products as “ultra-processed” foods. The report details why these concerns are not fully founded in science and how they could potentially derail climate, biodiversity, and health goals.

The report provides a series of recommendations to address these four key issues including:

  1. Foods and diets that are both healthier and more sustainable should be promoted, irrespective of their degree of processing
  2. There is need for more nuanced communication about the nutritional role of ultra processed food
  3. All stakeholders working in the fields of food, nutrition and sustainability should normalise and actively develop trust in plant-based meat [This recommendation in particular may provoke rebuttal from some food systems stakeholders]
  4. Improve awareness of nutrition and food processing to help consumers adopt healthier and more sustainable diets
  5. Invest in research and development to provide consumers with healthier, more sustainable and more affordable foods

The author, through email correspondence, noted that whilst the report is designed to target UK stakeholders including the NHS Eatwell team, the Department of Education, and Public Health England, her work is  more broadly applicable to plant-based meat companies, foodservice companies, and various charities and advocacy groups. The author also aims to engage with international bodies such as the FAO.


Chapman, J., 2024. Processing the discourse over plant-based meat. The Churchill Fellowship. 

Read the full report here and see more from our explainer What is ultra-processed food?, our recent panel discussion Regenerative & ultra-processed? (Part 1) - what does corporate engagement mean for regenerative agriculture? And the podcast with Neena Prasad on The power of ultra-processed foods

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