The philanthropist is also backing a company that is developing a new food source (fungi) ‘that can then be turned into a variety of foods with a small carbon footprint’.
While Bill Gates’ new book ‘How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need’ outlines several ambitious goals for solving the climate crisis, one of them according to the philanthropist is ditching beef and adopting plant-based alternatives.
Gates articulated his point in a recent interview with MIT Tech Review in which he said: “I do think all rich countries should move to 100% synthetic beef.
“You can get used to the taste difference, and the claim is they’re going to make it taste even better over time.
“Eventually, that green premium is modest enough that you can sort of change the [behavior of] people or use regulation to totally shift the demand.”
Innovations in the agricultural sector
Speaking about the innovations in reducing livestock-related emissions, the tech entrepreneur, who is also an investor in several plant-based food companies including Beyond Meats, Impossible Foods, and Memphis Meats, said that while innovations like this feed additive, which gives you a 20% reduction in methane emissions are forward-thinking, he pointed out the impracticality of the invention.
He said: “Those bacteria [in their digestive system that produce methane] are a necessary part of breaking down the grass. And so I don’t know if there’ll be some natural approach there.
“I’m afraid the synthetic [protein alternatives like plant-based burgers] will be required for at least the beef thing.”
Gates also expressed his doubts about how economical cellular meat produced by the likes of Memphis Meats would be.
“I don’t know that that will ever be economical,” he noted in the interview.
However, he praised alternative meat brands Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat stating: “[They] have a road map, a quality road map, and a cost road map, that makes them totally competitive.
“As for scale today, they don’t represent 1% of the meat in the world, but they’re on their way.”
Is going fully plant-based, a solution for poor nations?
In response to the question of whether ‘plant-based and lab-grown meats could be the full solution to the protein problem globally, even in poor nations’, Gates replied: “For Africa and other poor countries, we’ll have to use animal genetics to dramatically raise the amount of beef per emissions for them.
“Weirdly, the US livestock, because they’re so productive, the emissions per pound of beef are dramatically less than emissions per pound in Africa.
“And as part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s work, we’re taking the benefit of the African livestock, which means they can survive in heat, and crossing in the monstrous productivity both on the meat side and the milk side of the elite US beef lines.
“So no, I don’t think the poorest 80 countries will be eating synthetic meat.”
Gates added: “So for meat in the middle-income-and-above countries, I do think it’s possible. But, it’s one of those ones where you have to track it every year and see, and the politics [are challenging].
“There are all these bills that say it’s got to be called, basically, lab garbage to be sold. They don’t want us to use the beef label.”
New food source development
Gates is also backing a company that’s creating an entirely new food source.
In an interview on CBS 60 Minutes, Gates told the correspondent about Nature’s Fynd, which uses fungi and makes sausage and yogurt.
Gates said that the company uses a “microbe discovered in the ground in a geyser in Yellowstone National Park.”
“Without soil or fertilizer, it can be grown to produce this nutritional protein — that can then be turned into a variety of foods with a small carbon footprint,” he explained.
Praising the quality of their products, Gates said: “Yeah, with the burgers, they’re, you know, like Beyond and Impossible, they’re getting close to the real thing, but you can still tell. These I’m not sure I could’ve tell.”
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