Charting Asia’s Protein Journey: Asia’s growing appetite for meat and seafood a recipe for environmental destruction

Asia’s rapidly growing middle class is fuelling an increase in protein consumption, yet the environmental consequences of this trend are not adequately considered. We know, for example, that the production of animal protein is responsible for a significant share of global greenhouse gas emissions. Asia Research & Engagement (ARE) in its new report has examined the impact of this dietary shift and provided analysis to illuminate Asia’s protein journey.

After almost two decades investing in Asia and observing the rapid growth in the region, I started to think harder about how we produce our food globally and saw opportunity to help reformulate protein production with investment as well as the risk of business-as-usual (BAU). The Cibus Fund strategy was, to a great extent, developed on the premise that domestic production of animal protein, especially in Asia, is increasingly difficult due to reduced availability of natural resources, particularly land and water. The result of this is increased reliance on imports to the region, making it unlikely that the environmental impact will be borne entirely by Asia.

An interesting landscape has developed as countries without adequate resources at home to feed their populations have turned their attention to domestic food security. This focus manifests itself in cross-border purchases of agribusiness companies in countries with sufficient resources at their disposal, and the ability to produce foods destined for export. China has executed this strategy through global acquisitions, for example Shanghai CRED’s third-time-lucky bid in 2016 for the massive Australian integrated beef concern, Kidman property, which boasts 185,000 head of cattle.

This global strategy to achieve food security acknowledges the significant increase in protein consumption with population growth and affluence, as well as the associated negative externalities addressed in this report. Whilst we encounter many food companies that may disrupt this sector and bring improvements in emissions, diets are changing and, without action by governments to protect against excessive and polluting resource use, our ecosystems and climate will suffer.

This excellent report sheds light on the GHG emissions associated with a BAU scenario and the excessive and damaging use of antibiotics with concurrent health consequences, offering many reasons to improve the sustainability of protein production in Asia.

I would like to thank ARE and the ADM Capital Foundation for their seminal report on the impacts of protein consumption patterns in Asia. We believe this will help to build understanding of the changing global trade flows as well as the challenges we face that are pivotal to feeding our future.

Robert Appleby Founder and Partner, ADM Capital

Read the Report