How 'just' is the Protein Transition unfolding for consumers in the Netherlands?
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Animal-based protein consumption accelerates the nitrogen and carbon cycles, which contribute to climate change. From the environmental perspective, today’s meat consumption levels are therefore unsustainable. This study investigates the transition to plant-based protein consumption, the “Protein Transition”, which is expected to decrease greenhouse gas emissions through reduction of animal-based protein production and consumption. In the context of any transition, issues of social injustice need reflection and consideration. This research focuses on injustices induced by this plant-based Protein Transition in the Netherlands and investigates to what extent the different parts of the population are included and enabled to move away from animal-based proteins and make the necessary dietary changes. This study combines for the first time the Just Transition framework with the seven Technological Innovation Systems functions and is used as a proclaimed framework to analyse the presence of potential injustices in the Dutch Protein Transition. The results from extensive interviews with seventeen stakeholders, ranging from producers and marketers to consumers and policy makers, are analysed in a qualitative case study. The findings indicate that the Dutch Protein Transition induces geographic and ethnic inequalities. The engagement and involvement of rural areas and ethnic cultures present in the Netherlands are currently insufficient, and local knowledge of these consumer groups is lacking, which results in non-inclusive communication and marketing strategies. Additionally, the lower and middle socio-economic consumer groups are less participatory because of the high product prices resulting from the novelty of the transition, as well as from an immature development state of the products and the lack of transparency in government policies. To make the Protein Transition ‘just’, consumer focus should significantly shift towards rural areas and ethnic consumer groups, and become inclusive to all parts of Dutch society.