The International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems - IPES Food - is a group of 23 experts from 16 countries across five continents that describe themselves as “ground-breaking thinkers on global food systems”.

They have no government nor corporate funding and are financed by The Daniel and Nina Carasso Foundation, The Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation for the Progress of Humankind, the 11th Hour Foundation, and Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung.

The group has released a study on the “Politics of Protein” which examines the complex and conflicting debate on the role of meat in the diet and its environmental impact independent of the pro- and anti-meat lobbies that they believe oversimplify the debate.


Although a 104-page report, it can be distilled into six conclusions and three recommendation headings. It concludes that there is lots of hype about meat and protein, that it is narrowly focused on CO2 while ignoring how food is produced. The report also concludes that there is failure to recognise differences between world regions and that it fails to see the whole food system, with too much focus on silver bullet solutions.


IPES is critical of an undue focus on switching to meat alternatives as a means of addressing the issues around meat production, saying that they risk further rationalising food supply lines through a highly consolidated business model.

This also applies to global meat processing, where a handful of players control a large percentage of processing capacity.

IPES Food is of the view that public resources should be reclaimed from “big protein” and that innovation pathways should be realigned with the public good, resetting the debate.

There is also a recommendation to focus on achieving a transformation to sustainable food systems, not a protein transition, and prioritisation of reforms that deliver on all aspects of sustainability beginning at regional level.

Broadens debate

The report achieves a level of balance by being focused on food systems appropriate to their environment and being sceptical of what it describes as silver bullet solutions that eliminate or reduce the role of meat.

It is not advocating for meat production and is critical of intensification and industrialisation of production but recognises the role of livestock farming in managing marginal lands through grazing.