Projects Funded for Joel Ferguson


The Economics of Supply Chains with Application for Animal-free Meats: Impacts on the Economy and the Environment

David Zilberman, Joel Ferguson, and Lichun Huang


Specific Objectives of the Project:

  1. To expand a conceptual framework for a design of supply chains to include dynamic considerations and diffusion over space and time.
  2. To develop a conceptual framework to understand the alternative route that is employed by researchers to produce cultured meats.
  3. To develop a conceptual framework to assess the implications of different strategies on design of supply chains for production and distribution of the meat products and for procurement of feedstock.
  4. To assess the potential economic and environmental impact of alternative cultured meats on various sectors of agriculture, consumers, as well as the environment. This analysis will be conceptual.
  5. To consider how alternative policies may affect the evolution of the industry.
  6. To numerically provide orders of magnitude estimates of the impacts under alternative scenarios.

Project Report/Summary of Results:
Innovations in food science have led to the emergence of plant-based substitutes for animal meat products. Our analysis overviewed some of the emergent products and analyzed the economic conditions that lead to their growths. We argue that plant-based meat substitutes increase the input use efficiency of grains but the technology is in earlier stages and will benefit from learning by doing and upscaling. We expect that the use may be gradual and dependent upon the technological improvements and consumer preferences. These products have the potential to reduce greenhouse gases and the environmental side effects of agriculture. We developed basic formulas to assess the condition for their expansion and growth but further research is required to quantify their impacts.

Plant-based meat is only in its infancy. If consumers will accept it as a close substitute for meat, its seemingly lower input requirements, and GHG emissions contributions, it will change the structure of agribusiness, the economics of food and agriculture and rural regions. We argue that it will reduce the livestock sector significantly and reduce footprint and the environmental impacts agriculture. It will have a significant distribution effect reducing the wellbeing of animal agriculture. However, the changes will take time and we expect significant efforts to stop the technology. The use of biotechnology and creative culinary efforts may affect the quality and economic of plant-based meat.