Protein politics

Sustainable protein and the logic of energy


  • Maro Adjemian Department of Geogarphy, Memorial University
  • Heidi Janes Department of Political Science, University of Victoria
  • Sarah J. Martin Department of Political Science and the Department of Geography, Memorial University
  • Charles Mather Department of Geography, Memorial University, Canada
  • Madelyn J. White Department of Geography, Memorial University



Sustainable protein, industrial animal agriculture, farmed salmon, metrics, logic of energy


Powerful actors associated with intensive livestock production are repositioning industrially produced meat and farmed fish as “sustainable protein.” This repositioning, we show, involves justifying the production of meat through a range of metrics, calculations, and valuations. These metrics and associated indicators underpin claims that sustainable protein is more efficient and less wasteful than conventional meat production. Our analysis questions the relationship between efficiency and sustainability in industrial meat production. We show, first, that the industrial meat sector has always focussed on efficiency and the reduction of waste. What is new is that metrics, calculations, and indicators on efficiency and waste reduction are being repurposed and made public to consumers and investors to underpin claims for sustainable and “climate friendly” meat. While this practice is apparent across the animal agriculture sector, it is especially evident in the production of farmed salmon. Our second argument frames sustainable protein metrics as a political logic. While these metrics have been justifiably criticized as a form of environmental “greenwashing” by environmental non-governmental organizations and others, our own critique builds on Cara Daggett’s recent analysis of energy and its political logic. Building on Daggett’s work, we aim to provide a more fundamental critique to the efficiency and waste metrics that are used to support claims for sustainable protein, while simultaneously providing the conceptual and political foundation for more progressive futures.




How to Cite

Adjemian, M., Janes, H., Martin, S. J., Mather, C., & White, M. J. (2024). Protein politics: Sustainable protein and the logic of energy. Canadian Food Studies La Revue Canadienne Des études Sur l’alimentation, 11(1), 47–65.