Bruce Friedrich: Creating a New Agricultural Revolution

De­mand for meat is pro­jected to dou­ble by 2050. Bruce Friedrich, Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor of the Good Food In­sti­tute, be­lieves we can meet that de­mand with­out mas­sively scal­ing con­ven­tional an­i­mal agri­cul­ture (and the many ad­verse im­pacts of that in­dus­try). In this talk, he ex­plains how our abil­ity to pro­duce meat di­rectly from plants, or from an­i­mal cells, could lead to a new agri­cul­tural rev­olu­tion.

Below is a tran­script of Bruce’s talk, which we have lightly ed­ited for clar­ity. You can also watch it on YouTube or read it on effec­tivealtru­

The Talk

In 2019, the EAT-Lancet re­port came out. It was the product of 30 of the world’s top sci­en­tists. They worked for three years. They pub­lished the re­port in The Lancet, which is one of the most fa­mous, es­tab­lished, and es­teemed med­i­cal jour­nals in the world. And what they es­sen­tially said is that ev­ery­body should be eat­ing far less meat. One of the lead au­thors said that hu­man­ity now poses a threat to the sta­bil­ity of the planet.


This re­quires noth­ing less than a new global agri­cul­tural rev­olu­tion. If you were in­volved in an­i­mal pro­tec­tion — and es­pe­cially if you’re in­volved in meat re­duc­tion or ad­vo­cat­ing for veg­e­tar­i­anism — your email in­box blew up af­ter that re­port, with mes­sages from peo­ple who were ebul­lient over what many saw as the tip­ping point (i.e., The Lancet now tel­ling peo­ple to eat less meat).

[What it re­minded me of was] the comic fea­tur­ing Char­lie Brown and Lucy, in which Char­lie Brown keeps run­ning to kick the foot­ball and goes fly­ing be­cause Lucy keeps pul­ling the foot­ball away at the last sec­ond.


This is Oxford Univer­sity stat­ing just last year that a huge re­duc­tion in meat-eat­ing is es­sen­tial to avoid cli­mate change.


The year be­fore, this is BioS­cience Jour­nal sound­ing a dire warn­ing to hu­man­ity over the health of the planet.


In 2016, this is the Na­tional Academy of Sciences shar­ing the profound plane­tary con­se­quences of eat­ing less meat.

I adopted a ve­gan diet in 1987 af­ter I read a book that was [nearly] 20 years old at that point [Frances Moore Lappe wrote it in 1971].


It is called Diet for a Small Planet. It’s swiftly ap­proach­ing its 50th year. I started work­ing at Peo­ple for the Eth­i­cal Treat­ment of An­i­mals in 1996. At that time within PETA, we were declar­ing that the world was go­ing to be ve­gan in 20 years. We thought that if each of us con­vinced five peo­ple to be­come ve­g­ans in the next year, and then all of those folks con­vinced five peo­ple a year later, and then those peo­ple con­vinced five peo­ple — boom, you’d have global ve­g­anism in a few decades. We be­lieved that to be true in 1996.

Since then, we’ve spent year af­ter year of ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple about the dire in­sta­bil­ity of rais­ing crops and feed­ing them to an­i­mals so that we can eat an­i­mals, and all of the ad­verse en­vi­ron­men­tal con­se­quences of that.

At the Good Food In­sti­tute we’ve started to talk about an­other is­sue that could be equally dire: an­tibiotic-re­sis­tant su­per­bugs.


Just two years ago, the U.K. gov­ern­ment re­leased a re­port stat­ing that the threat to the hu­man race from an­tibiotic-re­sis­tant su­per­bugs is greater than the threat to the hu­man race from cli­mate change. Ba­si­cally, what’s hap­pen­ing is phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies are pro­duc­ing mas­sive amounts of an­tibiotics. More than 70% of them are fed to farm an­i­mals in or­der to al­low the an­i­mals to live through such dis­gust­ing con­di­tions that they would oth­er­wise die. Then the bac­te­ria mu­tate and be­come su­per­bugs [ca­pa­ble of over­whelming] the bac­te­ria in the farm an­i­mals. Then some­one skins a knee, it gets in­fected, and the an­tibiotics that are sup­posed to treat the in­fec­tion don’t work.


Mar­garet Chan, the former di­rec­tor gen­eral of the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion has said that a post-an­tibiotic era means, in effect, an end to mod­ern medicine as we know it. Things as com­mon as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could kill.

If you want [to give your­self] a re­ally big scare, tack the word “China” onto the end of a Google search for “work­ing an­tibiotics.” You would think this would freak peo­ple out, and that peo­ple would be will­ing to eat less meat or no meat as a re­sult of this prob­lem.

In fact, Chatham House, which is the fore­most think tank in Europe, re­leased a re­port three years ago about the de­gree to which [study­ing] the cli­mate im­pact of meat is un­der-re­sourced.


Chatham House said that it is liter­ally a sci­en­tific im­pos­si­bil­ity for the gov­ern­ments of the world to meet their cli­mate-change obli­ga­tions un­der the Paris Agree­ment (and keep tem­per­a­tures from ris­ing less than two de­grees Cel­sius by 2050) un­less meat con­sump­tion goes down. Their pre­scrip­tion was ed­u­ca­tion. But as I men­tioned at the be­gin­ning of this pre­sen­ta­tion, ed­u­ca­tion has been hap­pen­ing [for decades], but peo­ple are not chang­ing their diets.

A few years ago, the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment de­cided they would try to cut their meat con­sump­tion by ed­u­cat­ing their pop­u­la­tion about the ad­verse cli­mate im­pact of meat. They said they will cut their meat con­sump­tion in half by 2030. But what do you think has hap­pened to per-cap­ita meat con­sump­tion in China over the last few years? It’s sky­rock­eted.


This is what meat pro­duc­tion looks like from 1961 to 2017. I think 1961 was about 10 years be­fore Diet for a Small Planet. Since that book (ac­cord­ing to the cover) “rev­olu­tionized” the way peo­ple eat by ad­vo­cat­ing for less meat con­sump­tion, meat pro­duc­tion has sky­rock­eted. Peo­ple know, and yet there’s some­thing about our phys­iol­ogy or psy­chol­ogy [that keeps us from chang­ing our diet]. The wealthier peo­ple get, the more meat they want to eat. Ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions, we’re go­ing to need to pro­duce 70-100% more meat by 2050 [to keep up with de­mand].

What’s the solu­tion?


At the Good Food In­sti­tute, we think we have it: In­stead of grow­ing mas­sive amounts of crops and feed­ing those crops to farm an­i­mals so that we can eat farm an­i­mals, let’s grow those crops and use them to mimic meat (i.e., turn the crops di­rectly into plant-based meat).


And to pro­duce ac­tual an­i­mal meat, in­stead of grow­ing crops and feed­ing them to an­i­mals, let’s grow the cells di­rectly, rather than grow­ing them in live an­i­mals. Let’s cre­ate cell-based meat.


This is what cell-based meat looks like at scale. It’s your friendly neigh­bor­hood meat brew­ery.

Why do we think these solu­tions will work? Meat pro­duc­tion is an ex­traor­di­nar­ily in­effi­cient pro­cess. You grow mas­sive amounts of crops. You feed them to farm an­i­mals, and then the an­i­mal cells in the farm an­i­mals mul­ti­ply and grow. To get one calorie of meat in the form of chicken, you must feed that chicken nine calories in the form of crops — and chicken is the most effi­cient meat.

But turn­ing crops into meat isn’t the only in­effi­ciency. Con­sider what it takes to ship the crops you grow to a feed mill, op­er­ate that mill, ship the feed from the mill to a fac­tory farm, op­er­ate that farm, ship the an­i­mals to a slaugh­ter­house, and op­er­ate that slaugh­ter­house. There are mul­ti­ple stages of gas-guz­zling, pol­lu­tion-spew­ing ve­hi­cles in­volved. There are mul­ti­ple ex­tra fac­to­ries in­volved.

Grow­ing the crops di­rectly and bio-mimick­ing meat with the crops, or grow­ing the cells di­rectly and feed­ing the cells in­stead of feed­ing farm an­i­mals are far more effi­cient ways to pro­ceed. In 2017, the Sen­tience Pro­ject re­leased a re­port in which they found that more than 45% of Amer­i­cans want to ban slaugh­ter­houses, al­though 95-98% of Amer­i­cans eat meat.


The meat in­dus­try cried foul and said that ab­solutely can­not be true. And so the in­dus­try hand­picked a re­searcher at Ok­la­homa State Univer­sity. He ran the poll again and found that 47% of Amer­i­cans want to ban slaugh­ter­houses.

This is ob­vi­ously a mas­sive cog­ni­tive dis­so­nance. It tells us that peo­ple eat meat de­spite how it’s pro­duced, not be­cause of how it’s pro­duced. So if we can cre­ate the same taste, tex­ture, and ev­ery­thing else that peo­ple like about meat — but do it at a lower cost — we can ab­solutely elimi­nate an­i­mal agri­cul­ture.



This is what plant-based meat looks like. This is the Beyond Burger. For peo­ple fa­mil­iar who have seen Lewis Bol­lard’s talk, you know that [cre­at­ing plant-based meat] has been vastly un­der-re­sourced. In all of hu­man his­tory, re­search on plant-based meat has prob­a­bly re­ceived less than $150 mil­lion in re­sources, and all of that has gone into pri­vate-sec­tor re­search. Up un­til Beyond Meat was founded in 2009, pro­duc­ing plant-based meat es­sen­tially en­tailed tak­ing the waste product of the soy oil in­dus­try (the pro­tein that was the byproduct of soy oil) or the waste product of car­bo­hy­drates for bread and noo­dles, squish­ing those in­gre­di­ents to­gether, and forc­ing veg­e­tar­i­ans to eat it. That was how plant-based nuggets and plant-based burg­ers were cre­ated. And you can prob­a­bly cre­ate a $1-4 billion in­dus­try if you pro­ceed in that way.

What you can’t do is com­pete with the en­tire meat in­dus­try.


So in 2009, Ethan Brown [the founder of Beyond Meat] said, “Wait a minute. Our goal is not to be a $1-billion in­dus­try. Our goal is not to com­pete for the con­sumer dol­lars of veg­e­tar­i­ans, ve­g­ans, and flex­i­tar­i­ans. Our goal is to bio-mimic meat with plants and dis­rupt the en­tire meat in­dus­try.” That was a brand new way of think­ing about this is­sue.

Con­sider the fact that it takes roughly $1 billion to bring a drug to mar­ket. And then con­sider how many re­sources have gone into cre­at­ing plant-based meat. Im­pos­si­ble Foods has said they’ve spent al­most $100 mil­lion on re­search and de­vel­op­ment (R&D). Beyond Meat has prob­a­bly spent less than $50 mil­lion on R&D. And as far as we know, those are the two com­pa­nies fo­cused on the idea of bio-mimick­ing meat with plants. It is a drop in the prover­bial bucket. And they are both in the pri­vate sec­tor; [their re­search] is pro­tected by in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty law. They are prob­a­bly do­ing many of the same things [in terms of their re­search]. Im­pos­si­ble Foods uses soy [as their main in­gre­di­ent] and Beyond Meat uses pea. There is a long list of crops that might work very well for plant-based meat R&D.

What about cell-based meat (grow­ing meat di­rectly from cells)? In all of hu­man his­tory, less than $75 mil­lion has gone into figur­ing out how to grow meat di­rectly from cells. And all but about $2 mil­lion of it has been di­rected to the pri­vate sec­tor. So it’s all pro­tected by in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty. The com­pany that has raised the most money is Mem­phis Meats. They’ve raised $21 mil­lion. And ob­vi­ously only a frac­tion of that will have gone into R&D.

So, the Good Food In­sti­tute cre­ated a grant pro­gram. We gave away $1 mil­lion ear­lier this year for open-source cell-based meat re­search. That dou­bled the amount of [fund­ing that this area of re­search has re­ceived] in the last 20 years. It’s a nascent field.

At GFI, we have three pro­gram­matic de­part­ments that are fo­cused on figur­ing out how we can jump-start plant-based meat and cell-based meat as an al­ter­na­tive to in­dus­trial an­i­mal meat.


Be­fore GFI came along, no­body had both­ered to step back and say, “What do we know? What don’t we know — and where should we fo­cus in or­der to iden­tify what we don’t know?” The first thing our sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy de­part­ment did was cre­ate a roadmap for figur­ing out the things that we need to figure out.

We’re do­ing that in both the pri­vate and pub­lic sec­tors. We have helped star­tups be­come suc­cess­ful. We have ed­u­cated ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists about in­vest­ing in this space. And we’ve also been do­ing a lot of work on the pub­lic-sec­tor side. We also just hired a few “uni­ver­sity in­spira­tion spe­cial­ists.” We’ve iden­ti­fied what we con­sider to be the top dozen schools in the U.S. and the top ten [in other coun­tries] for [re­search­ing] plant-based meat, and the top dozen in the U.S. and the top ten [in other coun­tries] for [re­search­ing] cell-based meat. Our uni­ver­sity in­spira­tion spe­cial­ists will work on these cam­puses to or­ga­nize events. And if they find a cell biol­o­gist who was look­ing to go into ther­a­peu­tics, or a plant biol­o­gist look­ing to go into drought re­sis­tance, we want to ed­u­cate those peo­ple about the abil­ity to use their tal­ents for plant-based and cell-based meat R&D.

Our cor­po­rate en­gage­ment de­part­ment has been a lot more suc­cess­ful than we would’ve ex­pected at en­gag­ing the big meat and big food in­dus­tries, as well as ther­a­peu­tics com­pa­nies us­ing cell tis­sue. Many com­pa­nies are ex­cited about plant-based meat and the idea of cell-based meat as the fu­ture of meat. We ac­tu­ally have very good re­la­tion­ships with JBS Foods, which is the largest meat com­pany in the world, and with Tyson Foods, which is the num­ber-two meat com­pany in the world. [We also have good re­la­tion­ships with] Per­due Farms, ADM [Archer Daniels Mid­land], and Cargill.

We don’t want to dis­rupt the meat in­dus­try. We want to trans­form the meat in­dus­try. It will be re­ally use­ful if we can [tap into] their global sup­ply chains and economies of scale. They are the peo­ple who un­der­stand meat and food. The goal is to work with these com­pa­nies.

Also, we are do­ing a lot to ed­u­cate chain restau­rants and large gro­cery chains. We’re helping them figure out which prod­ucts are best [for them] and how to mar­ket them.

Fi­nally there is our policy de­part­ment, whose num­ber-one goal is to free up re­sources for plant-based meat and cell-based meat R&D. As I men­tioned, this is vastly un­der-re­sourced in both the pri­vate and pub­lic sec­tors. Most gov­ern­ments want to meet their obli­ga­tions un­der the Paris Cli­mate Agree­ment, and most care about food safety and se­cu­rity — an ar­ray of is­sues where plant-based meat and cell-based meat are go­ing to be part of the solu­tion to the prob­lems that they rec­og­nize they have.

For ex­am­ple, the U.S. gov­ern­ment spends more than $2 billion per year on agri­cul­tural re­search. We would like to see some of that money go into open-source R&D on plant-based meat and cell-based meat. We suc­ceeded in di­rect­ing $250,000 to­ward crop char­ac­ter­i­za­tion re­search at Wash­ing­ton State Univer­sity. And we con­vinced the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Food and Agri­cul­ture to put plant-based meat and cell-based meat re­search into their call for the pro­ject pro­pos­als that they are open to fund­ing.

Our policy de­part­ment has also been play­ing defense quite a lot re­cently. There have been a va­ri­ety of at­tacks on plant-based meat and cell-based meat. The at­tacks have mostly been on the nomen­cla­ture. We’ve been fight­ing those bat­tles state by state. One of the things we’re par­tic­u­larly ex­cited about is do­ing lob­by­ing within differ­ent states — for ex­am­ple, ask­ing Mas­sachusetts to cre­ate a cell-based meat re­search cen­ter at Har­vard Med­i­cal School or MIT, or Cal­ifor­nia to cre­ate a plant-based meat re­search cen­ter at the Univer­sity of Cal­ifor­nia, Davis.

We’re go­ing similar things globally. We have rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Brazil, In­dia, Is­rael, Asia-Pa­cific, and Europe. Our 2018 an­nual re­port is on our web­site, where you can also sign up to re­ceive monthly re­ports. We send out five to six pages ev­ery month cov­er­ing what ev­ery­body has been do­ing in our pro­gram­matic de­part­ments.


The last thing I want to say is this area of re­search is not only vastly un­der-re­sourced [in terms of fund­ing], but also [tal­ent]. It needs a lot more sci­en­tists. GFI is hiring. If you’re think­ing about what your next ca­reer move will be, I would be delighted to chat with you. You re­ally [could have the op­por­tu­nity to con­tribute to] the fu­ture of food.


[It’s true that] we don’t know for sure that [plant-based and cell-based meat] will work out. The prod­ucts have to taste the same or bet­ter [than farmed an­i­mal meat], and we’re not there yet. The prod­ucts have to cost the same or less to elimi­nate in­dus­trial an­i­mal agri­cul­ture. And the sci­ence should work out, but we don’t ab­solutely know that it will.

But if we are able, for ex­am­ple, to con­vince the United States gov­ern­ment to put hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars into this area — or Sin­ga­pore or China, or a billion­aire who de­cides to make it their pet cause — change could hap­pen pretty quickly. And there’s at least one billion­aire who’s [in­ter­ested]. Bill Gates tried Beyond Meats’ plant-based chicken and said, “What I [just tasted] was more than a clever meat sub­sti­tute. It was a taste of the fu­ture of food.”

I’d like to re­mind peo­ple of how quickly change can hap­pen.


If we had been hav­ing this con­ver­sa­tion 20 years ago and most of us planned to take pho­tos, we would buy one of those cheap lit­tle dis­pos­able cam­eras. Some peo­ple prob­a­bly don’t even know those ex­isted. But 20 years ago they were su­per com­mon. Most pic­tures were taken with ana­log film. Now, 99.9% of pho­tos are taken on iPhones or other pocket com­put­ers.


Phone calls are similar. Some peo­ple may have par­ents who have lan­dlines, but 99.9% of com­mu­ni­ca­tion is hap­pen­ing ei­ther via text mes­sage or via cell phone. Twenty years ago that was ab­solutely not true.

Flash­ing back fur­ther: In 1898, the world’s first ur­ban plan­ning con­fer­ence hap­pened. There were 175,000 horses on the streets of New York City. They were pro­duc­ing 50,000 tons of ma­nure ev­ery sin­gle month. This was hap­pen­ing all over the world. The streets were filled with horse ma­nure, flies, and horse car­casses. And so in 1898, at the world’s first ur­ban plan­ning con­fer­ence in New York City, there was only one item on the agenda: What do we do about all of the horse shit? The con­fer­ence was sup­posed to last two weeks. Within two days they de­cided they didn’t have a solu­tion and ev­ery­body just went home.


Ten years later, Henry Ford in­tro­duces the Model T. And within five years af­ter that, there were more cars than horses on the streets of New York City.

For 50 years we’ve been ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple about the harms of in­dus­trial an­i­mal agri­cul­ture. And that is im­por­tant. I’m here be­cause of that ed­u­ca­tion. Most peo­ple in an­i­mal rights and veg­e­tar­ian ad­vo­cacy, as well as Pat Brown and Ethan Brown — the founders of Im­pos­si­ble Foods and Beyond Meat, re­spec­tively — were in­fluenced by that ed­u­ca­tional ad­vo­cacy. But it’s very clear that we’re not go­ing to elimi­nate an­i­mal agri­cul­ture un­less we can give con­sumers some­thing they like that tastes the same or bet­ter, and that costs the same or less. If we do that, we can rel­e­gate an­i­mal agri­cul­ture to the dust­bin of his­tory. We can cre­ate meat from plants, grow it di­rectly from cells, and elimi­nate farmed an­i­mal agri­cul­ture.


[Per­haps in the not-too-dis­tant fu­ture] it will seem just as in­sane for some­one to go out and eat a burger or chicken nuggets as it would to hop in a horse and buggy.

Thank you.

Moder­a­tor: One au­di­ence mem­ber has this ques­tion: What you think the role of cor­po­rate cam­paigns and bal­lot ini­ti­a­tives are in the plant-based food rev­olu­tion?

Bruce: Cor­po­rate en­gage­ment is crit­i­cally im­por­tant. I am now a friend of Tyson Foods, which is sort of fas­ci­nat­ing. Tyson is on board with [us­ing] al­ter­na­tive pro­teins, which is very ex­cit­ing. Of their ven­ture cap­i­tal fund’s first four in­vest­ments, one was a plant-based meat com­pany and two were cell-based meat com­pa­nies. They have a mas­sive con­sumer base. They un­der­stand meat and mar­ket­ing. If we can have them on our side rather than against us, that will al­low us to ac­cel­er­ate change a lot more quickly.

The peo­ple in the meat in­dus­try want to sup­ply high-qual­ity pro­tein to peo­ple at rea­son­able prices. And if they can make even more money with­out the headaches of farm an­i­mals and slaugh­ter­houses, they’re go­ing to do that.

I don’t know about bal­lot ini­ti­a­tives. They are prob­a­bly not nec­es­sary. I’m su­per ex­cited about what Scott Weathers [a se­nior policy an­a­lyst at GFI] is do­ing, which is to con­vince states that care about cli­mate change that [plant-based and cell-based meats are] part of the solu­tion — and that they should fund plant-based and cell-based meat re­search cen­ters at uni­ver­si­ties in their states.

Moder­a­tor: What do you say to peo­ple who be­lieve the an­tibiotic re­sis­tance is­sue will be solved by U.S. gov­ern­ment efforts to re­duce the use of med­i­cally im­por­tant an­tibiotics in farms?

Bruce: If you look at his­tory, I think [U.S. poli­ti­cian] Louise Slaugh­ter first in­tro­duced the Preser­va­tion of An­tibiotics for Med­i­cal Treat­ment Act (PAMTA), which was sup­posed to ban the use of dual-use an­tibiotics (those that are use­ful in both hu­man medicine and used in fac­tory farm­ing). She in­tro­duced that bill some­thing like 20 years ago, and she con­tinued to in­tro­duce it ev­ery two years. And the peo­ple who hand­i­cap these things ev­ery two years said there was less than a 1% chance of the bill pass­ing. The bill never passed.

If you Google “Pig Zero,” you’ll get an ar­ti­cle from that was on the front page of the New York Times about this is­sue. The U.S. gov­ern­ment is not go­ing to fix it. It’s very, very clear. The phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try and the an­i­mal agri­cul­ture in­dus­try have been try­ing to con­vince us for 20 years that the gov­ern­ment has it un­der con­trol, but it’s get­ting worse, not bet­ter.

Moder­a­tor: You say you’re now in­tro­duced as a friend of Tyson. Some­one in the au­di­ence won­ders if by work­ing with ex­ist­ing meat pro­duc­ers you worry about prop­ping up an ex­ist­ing sys­tem and mak­ing it more difficult for new com­pa­nies to dis­rupt them.

Bruce: I wish that were a worry. It re­ally does go back to the fact that we have been do­ing the same thing over and over, and ex­pect­ing a differ­ent re­sult. And I do want to [be clear]: I’m in fa­vor of chang­ing the zeit­geist. I’m in fa­vor of ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple about these is­sues. Some peo­ple will de­vote their en­tire lives to it in ways that are mean­ingful and helpful.

But the meat in­dus­try is colos­sal. The meat in­dus­try has not taken much of a hit from an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy. So the ideal sce­nario, it seems to me, is that star­tups get go­ing through in­vest­ments from the meat in­dus­try. For ex­am­ple, Cargill and Tyson have in­vested in plant-based and cell-based meat com­pa­nies. And then maybe the star­tups get taken over and the economies of scale kick in. That seems like a pretty great sce­nario to me.

Moder­a­tor: Why do you think these com­pa­nies haven’t in­vested in al­ter­na­tive meats un­til so re­cently?

Bruce: It’s worth re­mem­ber­ing the tra­jec­tory [of al­ter­na­tive meats]. Ethan Brown starts Beyond Meat in 2009 and they don’t have a na­tional product un­til 2013. They launched re­gion­ally in Whole Foods in 2012. It was three years be­fore they had their ver­sion of chicken nuggets, which they now have pul­led from the mar­ket be­cause they don’t think they’re good enough. Their burger didn’t ex­ist un­til 2016.

Pat Brown founded Im­pos­si­ble Foods in 2011. It took him five years to have a product. So, look­ing at plant-based meat as an al­ter­na­tive for ev­ery­body — and not some­thing for veg­e­tar­i­ans and flex­i­tar­i­ans — is very new.

The very first cell-based meat com­pany was Mem­phis Meats. They in­cor­po­rated [in 2015]. Now there are 30 of these com­pa­nies. But the in­dus­try is brand new.

And I will just un­der­line again that the suc­cess of plant-based meat and cell-based meat is still very much un­cer­tain. It qual­ifies as a big, bold bet. Ethan Brown has said he thinks it’s go­ing to be five years be­fore their burger is cost-com­pet­i­tive with in­dus­trial an­i­mal burg­ers. And we need to do that not just for burg­ers but also for chicken. There’s a back­story to that: They can’t scale up quickly enough to meet the de­mand. But it’s still the case that there is an over­whelming amount of work to be done both in the pri­vate and pub­lic sec­tors.

Moder­a­tor: The sto­ries that you told of tech­nolo­gies vastly chang­ing the [sta­tus quo] in the past two decades is very in­spiring. And some­one in the au­di­ence asks: Can you give an es­ti­mate for the cost re­duc­tion in meat al­ter­na­tives? Do you think it’ll fol­low a similar sort of timeline, or might it have the more stut­ter­ing adop­tion that we’ve seen in, say, the re­new­able en­ergy sec­tor?

Bruce: It’s re­ally tough to know. I be­lieve that China has so many is­sues to think about around food safety, food se­cu­rity, and wa­ter qual­ity and quan­tity. They should be putting billions of dol­lars into this tech­nol­ogy. And if they trans­form the way that meat is made, they would also have colos­sal brag­ging rights for the rest of time. That same ar­gu­ment could ap­ply to the U.S., Sin­ga­pore, or Is­rael. This is­sue re­quires, at the very least, hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars. It re­quires pub­lic-sec­tor in­vest­ment, not just pri­vate-sec­tor in­vest­ment. So it could take a re­ally long time on our cur­rent tra­jec­tory. Or, if we reach the right peo­ple and are suc­cess­ful, it could hap­pen a lot more quickly.

Moder­a­tor: What if ev­ery per­son in this room started work­ing on the tech­nol­ogy? What, what might that do to the timeline for de­vel­op­ment?

Bruce: We need to work on lob­by­ing to get re­sources for the tech­nol­ogy. GFI is start­ing a (501)(c)(4) or­ga­ni­za­tion and we’ll be lob­by­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally. Our key fo­cus is to con­vince gov­ern­ments that they should be putting hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars into these tech­nolo­gies. Again, that’s re­ally hard to make hap­pen. But it should hap­pen. And if we’re able to make it hap­pen, the trans­for­ma­tion will come a lot more quickly.

On our cur­rent tra­jec­tory, if we are able to keep up roughly 20-25% growth against in­dus­trial an­i­mal meat on a yearly ba­sis, that would get us there by 2050. But it will take some big changes in the short term.

Moder­a­tor: Right. Well, I hope all of us can be part of that change. And thank you so much for your talk.

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