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Transition of food systems
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January 3rd 2024

A systematic review of the definitions, narratives and paths forwards for a protein transition in high-income countries

The article's main findings shed light on the lack of definitions of the protein transition, divergent opinions on protein reduction or replacement in diets, and a notable oversight of systematic change by focusing solely on the nutritional function of proteins.

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The protein transition, aiming to rebalance protein intake between animal and alternative proteins, is gaining momentum in scientific and policy discussions on food system transformation. Here, using a systematic review approach, we identified 33 articles that address challenges in reducing the environmental impacts of protein production and consumption, providing healthy diets for a growing population and preventing adverse effects of industrial livestock production systems. We found unclear definitions of the protein transition, conflicting views on reduction or replacement of dietary protein and a lack of attention to systemic change by reducing protein to its macronutrient function. Three narratives were identified, namely, the consumer narrative focusing on consumption-based solutions targeting dietary changes; the techno-centred narrative developing new, more resource-efficient protein production systems; and the socio-technological narrative that intends to transition the agri-food system from an animal-dominated regime to an alternative protein regime. We conclude that solutions should consider factors such as scale, initiating actors and expected impact to support complementary protein transition approaches.

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