Fake Meat Burgers Could Save The World

When people want to act to limit climate change and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, solar panels, LED bulbs, and electric cars may come to mind.  But an often overlooked step is changing your diet.

A non-meat burger made by Impossible Foods rests on a plate before being tasted, during a press event at the Impossible Foods headquarters in Redwood City, California, on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. Photo: Gabrielle Lurie, The ChronicleMeat production worldwide is a major contributor of greenhouse gases, particularly red meat.  Cows emit methane, but they also require a ton of feed (usually corn) that in turn requires a lot of fertilizer produced from natural gas.  Some studies indicate that you can make a bigger impact reducing your carbon footprint simply by avoiding meat consumption — even more than driving a hybrid.

So leave it to Silicon Valley to address the challenge.  A number of startups are figuring out alternative, cleaner ways to produce meat from plants, per the San Francisco Chronicle:

Impossible Foods, based in Redwood City, is one of two California companies racing to build a beefless burger so good that it fools carnivores. Impossible Foods’ Impossible Burger debuted in one New York restaurant in July and arrives in California this week. The company’s rival, Beyond Meat, has produced a Beyond Burger that is on sale in Whole Foods stores in the mountain states and may make it to the Bay Area by the end of the year.

Most manufacturers of processed food market their products as if they’re one cardboard box away from grandma’s best dish. Not Impossible Foods or Beyond Meat. Their methods are nakedly high tech. Their funding comes from tech-sector investors. And though both companies are emitting a tremendous amount of hype in the food world, their intended audience isn’t the organic-minded or even the vegetarian. Like most of Silicon Valley’s unicorn aspirants, Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat say they’re out to change the world.

If Silicon Valley can “science the hell” out of meat production (to paraphrase Matt Damon in The Martian), it would be a major win for the environment. Convincing people not to eat meat is an almost impossible sell, and as more of the world industrializes, meat consumption is only increasing.

Sure, policy makers might be able to tax meat enough to discourage consumption, or meat prices may rise so much that it achieves the same effect, but that may be politically difficult or simply take too long. So it would be much better if we could instead provide people an alternative that tastes just like the real thing.

A guilt- and emissions-free burger? I for one certainly wish these companies well.


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