The future of meat
July 31, 2012 4 Comments
Really interesting piece from Farhad Manjoo last week about the latest meat substitute, Beyond Meat. Apparently, we’re really approaching the point where fake meat can almost fool people, and that is a great thing with potentially huge environmental consequences. Meat takes so much more resources in terms of water, land, fossil fuel, etc., than plants that replacing that meat in diets with plant-based meat substitutes with a similar (but healthier) nutrition profile would be a huge, huge boon:
Real meat is delicious, but it’s terrible in nearly every other way. Meat is environmentally toxic and colossally inefficient, ethically dubious (even if you’re OK with killing animals, raising and slaughtering animals in factory farms is hard to defend), and it’s unhealthy (that’s even true if you don’t eat it—there’s good evidence that the rampant use of antibiotics in livestock production has given rise to drug-resistant infections). I’d rate Beyond Meat as being 90 to 95 percent as realistic as chicken, but in every other way, it’s superior. It requires far less energy to produce, it’s got no saturated fats, no antibiotics, and no animals are harmed in the process.
Here’s how Beyond Meat’s founder sees the future:
“Our goal is to see that category redefined—instead of having it be called ‘meat,’ it would just be called ‘protein,’ whether it’s protein coming from a cow or chicken or from soy, pea, quinoa, or other plant-based sources,” says Ethan Brown, Beyond Meat’s founder. As the firm ramps up production, Brown expects to sell Beyond Meat for less than the price of real meat, too…
Over time, Brown believes, the firm will get all these little details just right. He’s also confident that society will accept his innovations just as it has adapted to tech revolutions of the past. “Once, we had the horse-drawn carriage, and then we had the horse-less carriage, and then we had the automobile,” he says. “I’m firmly convinced we’re going to go from beef and chicken products that are animal in origin to those that are made with plants—and at some point in the future you’ll walk down the aisle of the supermarket and ask for beef and chicken, and like the automobile has no relationship to the horse, what you get will have nothing to do with animals.”
That may sound crazy right now, but I do think he’s onto something. There’s every reason to believe that as technology improves we should be able to create a plant-based product that is healthier, and cheaper, than meat that can fool most of our palates. That would be a very, very good thing for our health and our planet.