Denmark launches the world’s first national action plan to promote plant-based food

Denmark recently released an action plan detailing its goals for transitioning to a plant-based food system, a first for any national government in the world. It is reported that this is part of Denmark’s climate agriculture plan to reduce food emissions announced in 2021. In addition to increasing exports, there will also be plans to promote plant-based foods in school meals through chef training.

In 2021, Denmark launched an unprecedented climate agreement, arguing that pure plant foods must become “a core element of the green transition.” In the plan, the government has allocated 1 billion Danish kroner (168 million euros) to promote the development of the industry, of which 675 million Danish kroner (90 million euros) will be used to establish a new plant-based food fund, and the rest will be used as a support for cultivation. Bonus for farmers producing plant protein crops for human consumption.

Now, Denmark’s new national action plan is part of the 2021 agreement, setting out how the government wants to promote its plant-based industry. The government hopes to inspire the rest of the world in the consumption and production of plant-based foods. Three years ago, the country passed a climate law with emissions and net-zero targets.

Plans from the Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries include training chefs in public and private kitchens on plant-based meals and placing a greater focus on plant-based diets in schools and the education system. It also outlines initiatives to expand exports of locally produced plant-based foods through the embassy and increase investment in research and development in this area.

The Danish plant-based industry is “severely underfunded.”

This last point is crucial because it contrasts with a report earlier this year that found 97% of EU research and innovation spending goes to livestock to increase production. This is despite the EU supporting two major research initiatives to help develop plant-based products last year, with a total investment of €23.2 million. In fact, between 2014 and 2020, at least 50% of EU cattle farmers’ income came from direct subsidies from the EU – a figure that is 1,200 times greater than the subsidies received by the plant-based industry.

This has brought attention to Denmark’s plan to incentivize farmers to grow plant-based proteins, as well as the launch of the Plant-Based Food Fund, which has received 101 applications from startups, universities and other institutions in its first round, requesting that €7.78 million of funding should be allocated more than three times the budget.

Although Denmark’s decarbonization plan represents the largest investment in plant-based R&D of any country, the Danish Vegan Society believes the industry remains “grossly underfunded”. Experts from several of the country’s universities stated that funding must be increased at least sixfold to 600 kronor (80 million euros) per year.

Plant-based policies in countries around the world.

The Netherlands’ nitrogen emissions plans have sparked a backlash from livestock farmers, but the country faces criticism from environmentalists who claim its tax rules encourage the use of fossil fuels. But the Netherlands has laid out a six-year master plan to increase the production and consumption of plant-based proteins, and last year approved cell-cultured meat and seafood tastings after investing 60 million euros in cellular agriculture. Spend 25 billion euros to buy livestock farms and limit the number of animals raised for human food.

Likewise, Germany’s national nutrition strategy focuses on plant-based diets, particularly in government-run institutions such as hospitals and schools. German Food and Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir said meat consumption in Germany has fallen, with only one in five people eating meat every day. He added that policymakers intend to develop a comprehensive nutrition strategy that promotes food system change through early education and accessibility initiatives. Given that Germany is the largest plant-based market in Europe, the potential is there.

Last month, the Swiss government launched a new agriclimate strategy to make its food system more sustainable and promote food security. These include recommendations to reduce meat consumption and introduce more plant-based foods into people’s diets – 21% of the population already consume plant-based alternatives to dairy products once a week.

Outside of Europe, Canada’s food guidelines have also recently been revised to encourage greater consumption of plant-based foods over animal-based proteins. In the United States, 1,400 mayors approved a resolution in August promoting a shift to a plant-based diet to address chronic disease, climate change and the nation’s health care costs.

Meanwhile, in China, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs mentioned “cell cultured meat” and “future food manufacturing” for the first time in the 14th Five-Year Plan in January 2022. In Taiwan, the Climate Change Response Act of 2023 promotes a plant-based, low-carbon diet to combat the climate crisis and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

Additionally, 2023 is the UAE’s Year of Sustainability, part of which is promoting a plant-based diet in the country. It’s also home to this year’s COP28 climate summit, which is billed as the first food-themed summit and features a plant-based menu, with 44% of local residents willing to replace meat and dairy with plant-based alternatives.