If you told someone in 2010 that Silicon Valley startup Tesla Motors would be making traditional car company CEOs quake in their boots within 5 years, they would think you were either an idiot of possibly a politician. But today, major countries — like China, India, France, the UK, and California — are talking about banning all cars with internal combustion engines. [Yes, I know California is not technically a country — yet.] Now, Silicon Valley has spawned another startup — Impossible Foods — that wants to eliminate all animal-based food products by 2035.
That’s just crazy talk, right? Maybe not. Impossible Foods has secured backing from such luminaries as Bill Gates and Google Ventures. Its CEO, Patrick Brown, a Stanford biochemist, announced this week, “We want to completely replace animals as a food production technology by 2035. We are working on producing all foods that we get from animals.”
“No disrespect to vegetarians,” he adds, “but the only consumers we really care about are meat consumers. A friend mentioned to me that if you could make a burger that McDonald’s would serve instead of a burger from a cow, then that would be the fastest way to solve the problem. It was a throwaway comment, but I realized that was exactly it.
“And because of my scientific background I knew it was completely doable. I found to my surprise that no one was treating it as a solvable problem. I think people just figured we have this insanely destructive system and it’s just never going to go away. They thought, ‘bummer, but there you are’.”
What is Impossible Foods’ secret? Heme — a compound that contains iron and is found in animal muscle. Impossible Foods describes it as “a basic building block of life in all organisms, including plants.” According to the company, heme is significant because it gives meat its unique color and taste, as well as catalyzing the other flavors in meat when it is cooked.
Just like Tesla, Impossible Foods’ main mission is to save the world. Patrick Brown was strongly influenced by a United Nations study published in 2006 which claimed animal farming was responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions worldwide than the entire transportation sector — that study was actually produced by the agriculture/livestock arm of the UN, so some have claimed it is too industry friendly.
Like Elon Musk, Brown began a quest to address the climate crisis no matter the hurdles. Unlike Musk, Brown is pursuing his dream by making plant-based foods instead of electric cars.
The company opened a new manufacturing plant in Oakland this month and has started producing one million pounds of plant-based “beef” every month. It expects to its products to reach 1,000 distribution points by the end of this year. The company’s chief communications officer, Rachel Konrad, says, “We’re not a burger company. We’re a tech platform for food. Our first product was ‘proof of concept’. We can have second, or tenth, products after that.”
Full disclosure: My bride is attempting to transition our menu at home away from animal products. Much to my surprise, I now prefer a veggie burger or a so-called “chicken patty” to the real thing. This is rather surprising from someone who used to get excited by “all you can eat” prime rib night at the local eatery. Tastes and attitudes change. Plant-based food today is miles ahead of what it was just a few years ago.
All the arguments that militate in favor ditching internal combustion engines apply to plant-based food. Try it. You just might like it. I do.
Source: Plant Based Foods
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