367. The Future of Meat


Let's begin with a few basic facts fact, number one a lot of people all over the world really liked to eat meat, especially beef, pork. And chicken. If you add them all together, we're actually higher than we've been in in recent history. It's Jason Lusk. I'm professor and head of the agricultural economics department at Purdue University. I study what we eat and why we eat it. And then in terms of overall meat consumption per capita in the US. How do we rank worldwide where we're the king of meters? So compared almost any other country in the world, we eat more meat per capita, even Brazil Argentina. Yes. Yes. And part of that difference is income based. So if you took Argentina, Brazil and adjusted for income, they would probably be consuming more than us. But we happen to be richer. So we eat a little more the average American consumes roughly two hundred pounds of meat a year. That's an average. So let's say your meter someone in your fam-. Vegetarian. You might be putting away four hundred pounds a year. But in America, at least there aren't that many vegetarians? I probably have the largest data set of vegetarians of any other researcher that I know really why I've been doing a survey of US food consumers every month for about five years and one of the questions, I ask are you a vegan vegetarian so over five years time and about a thousand people a month. I've got about sixty thousand observations. Wow. And is this a nationwide data survey, it is Representative in terms of age and income education. I'd say on average you're looking at about three to five percent of people say yes to that question that say there's a very slight uptick over the last five years. So again, a lot of meat eating in America. What are some other countries that consume lot of meat, Australia and New Zealand Israel Canada? Russia most European countries and increasingly China. One of the things we know is that when consumers get a little more income in their pocket. One of the first things they do wanna add high value proteins to their diets. What is the relationship generally between GDP and meat consumption, positive, although sort of diminishing return, so as you get to really high income levels, it might even tell off a little bit. But certainly at the lower end of that spectrum as a country grows adds more GDP start to see some pretty rapid increases in meat consumption meat consumption is, of course, driven by social and religious factors as well by cuff, concerns and animal welfare. Not everyone agrees that humans should be eating animals at all that said, we should probably assume that the demand for me will continue to rise as more of the world keeps getting richer. How's the supply side doing with this increased demand quite well? The meat industry is massive and complicated and often heavily subsidized. But long story short. If you go by the availability of meat, and especially what consumers pay this is an economic success story. So prices of almost all of our meat products, have declined considerably over the last sixty one hundred years, and the reason is that we have become so much more productive at producing meat. If you look at most of the the amount of port produced per sow, and we'd take out a lot of the seasonal variation that we used to see these animals have been pride in doors, and and you look at at poultry production broiler production the amount of meat. That's produced per broiler has risen dramatically. Almost doubled say over the last fifty to one hundred years while also consuming slightly less feed. That's due largely to selective reading and other technologies. Same goes for beef production. We get a lot more meat per animal, for example on a smaller amount. Of land as you can imagine people concerned with animal welfare may not celebrate these efficiency improvements, and then there's the argument that despite these efficiency improvements turning animals into food is wildly inefficient because the cow didn't evolve to be meat. That's the thing. That's Pat Brown is a longtime Stanford biomedical researcher who's done groundbreaking work in genetics. The cow valve to be a cow and make more cows and not to be eaten by humans, and it's not very good at making me. Meaning it takes an enormous amount of food and water and other resources to turn a cow or pig into dinner, much more than plant based foods and Pat Brown sees it. That is not even the worst of it. The most environmentally destructive technology on earth using animals in food production. Nothing else even comes close. Not everyone agrees that meat production is the environment's. Biggest enemy. What's not? In dispute is that global demand for me is high and rising and that the production of meat is resource intensive and at the very least and environmental challenge with implications for climate change. Pat Brown thinks he has a solution to these problems. He started a company the company whose mission is to completely replace animals as a food production technology by twenty thirty five the meat industry, as you can imagine has other ideas, we want to keep the term meat to what is traditionally harvested in raised in the traditional manner today on freakonomics radio, everything you always wanted to know about me about meatless meat and where meat meets future. From Stitcher and their productions. This is freakonomics radio. The podcast explores the hidden side of everything here's your host, Stephen Duffner. What determines which food you put in your mouth every day? There are plainly a lot of factors personal preference. Tradition geography on so take something like horse consumption that. It's almost unheard of to even think about consuming a horse in the United States Jason Lusk again, the agricultural economists. Whereas, you know, you go to Belgium or France, it would be a commonly consumed dish. But there's another big factor that determines who eats what technology technology related to how food is grown preserved transported, but also technology that isn't even related to the food itself. Consider the case of mutton. Mutton is the me of an adult sheep, the meat of young sheep. It's called lamb. I I'm willing to bet that you have not eaten mutton in the last six months probably the last six years, maybe never. But if we were talking a hundred years ago different story that certainly the case that back in the nineteen twenties and thirties that mutton was a much. More commonly consumed product mutton was a staple of the American diet one of the standard items ship to soldiers during World War Two was canned mutton. But shortly after the war mutton started to disappear. What happened as sheep is? Not just meet. Okay. Sheep is not just meet these are multi product species and their valuable not just for their meat, but further wool. Oh. Yeah. Wool and unlike leather, which can be harvested only once from an animal, you can share wool from one. Sheep many times over many years. So anything that affects the demand for wool is also going to the market for the rest of the of the underline animals, and what might affect the demand for wool. How about synthetic substitutes nylon? For instance, was created by DuPont in nineteen thirty five became available to the public in nineteen forty a year later polyester was invented. So anytime, you had new clothing technologies come along that's gonna affect the underlying and for for sheep and make them less less valuable than they would have been otherwise. So an increase in synthetic fabrics led to a shrinking demand for wool, which meant that. Although sheep that had been kept around for shearing no longer needed to be kept around. Also will subsidies were repealed and America's sheep flock, drastically shrank from a high of fifty six million in nineteen forty two barely five million today. But. His amazing. I've worked at several agricultural universities across the US now and often the largest sheep herds in those states or at the university research farms in fewer, sheep, meant less mutton for dinner is it possible Americans would have stopped eating mutton without the rise of synthetic fabrics. Absolutely. If you ask a room full of meat eaters to name their favorite me. I doubt one of them will say mutton still this is just one example of how technology can have a big affect on the meat we eat. And if you talk to certain people, it's easy to believe that we're on the verge of a similar but much larger technological shift. Okay. My name is Pat Brown. I'm currently the CEO and founder of impossible foods whose mission is to completely replace animals as a food production. Technology Brown grew up in the suburbs of Washington DC as well as Paris and Taipei. Father worked for the CIA. He studied to be pediatrician and in fact completed his medical residency, but he switched to biochemistry research. I had the best job in the world at Stanford. My job was basically to discover and invent things and follow my curiosity. Brown. Did this for many years and was considered a world-class researcher one of his breakthroughs was a new tool for genetic mapping? It's called the DNA micro array that lets you read all the words at this L is using and effectively kind of start to learn the vocabulary. Learn how the genome writes the life story of a Sal or something like that. It also has practical applications because what it's doing in sort of a deterministic way specifies potential of that cell or if it's a cancer cell. Some people think the DNA micro array will win Pat Brown Nobel prize when I bring this up. Just shakes his head. And smiles it's clear that his research was a deep passion for me. This was the dream job. It was like in the renaissance, you know, having the magic he's as patrons or something like that. But after many years Brown wanted a change he was in his mid fifties. He took a sabbatical figure out his next move. It started out with stepping back from the work. I was doing and ask myself the most important thing, I could do what could I do that? We have the biggest positive impact on the world and looking at what are the biggest unsolved problems in the world. I, you know, came relatively quickly conclusion that the use of animals of production technology is by far. And I could give you endless reasons why that's true. But it is absolutely true. By far, the most environmentally destructive thing that humans. Do there is indeed a great deal of evidence for this argument across the entire environmental spectrum. The agriculture historian James McWilliams in a book called just food are used that quote, every environmental problem related to contemporary agriculture ends up having its deepest roots in meat production. Monocropping excessive applications of nitrogen fertilizer addiction to insecticides rainforest depletion land degradation, topsoil runoff, declining water supplies, even global warming. All these problems McWilliams rights would be considerably less severe if people ate meat rarely if ever, you know, there's no doubt that meat production has environmental consequences. Jason Lusk again to suggest that it's the most damaging environmental thing, we do as I think it pretty extreme overstatement, but what about the greenhouse gas emissions associated with raising me, especially in the US, which is the world's largest beef producer, our own EPA environmental protection agencies suggests that all of livestock contributes about three. Percent of our total greenhouse gas emissions. So I mean three percent is not nothing. But it's it's not the major contributor that. We see that that number. I should say is much higher. Many other parts of the world. So the carbon impacts per pound produced are so much smaller here than a lot of the world. But when you tell people the way to reduce carbon emissions is to intensify animal production. That's not a story. A lot of people like to hear because why not it sounds like it's against animal welfare. Well, two reasons exactly one is there are concerns about animal welfare, particularly when you're talking about ruler, chickens, or or hogs a less of about cattle in the other one is there are concerns about when you concentrate ally animals, one placing all this waste in in a location that you have to think about creative ways to deal with don't have some significant of our mental problems. So the EPA number livestock, contributing three percent does that include the entire production chain, though, because some of the numbers that I see. From environmental activists is much much higher than that the UN estimate that you often hear from originally was created in this report called livestock long shadow is something around nineteen percent. But that nineteen percent roughly number is a global number. Actually, there was a a study that came out pointing out some flaws in that. So they reduced it somewhat. In any case. There is a growing concern in many quarters over the externalities of meat production over the last five to ten years. There's been a lot of negative publicity of stories about environmental impacts about carbon emissions about animal welfare. And if you just look at the news stories, you would think boy people must be really cutting back given the sort of frightful stories that you see on the front pages of the newspapers. But if you look at the data itself demand looks fairly stable, and so that suggested me either it's it's hard to change people's preference on this or something about me consumption. Some people would argue that were evolved to like meet that it's a protein vitamin packed. You know, tasty punch that we've grown to enjoy as a species. There are some people that even argue that it's one of the reasons we became a smart as. We did the vitamins and nutrients are in that meet allowed our brains to develop in certain ways that it might have not otherwise Pat Brown saw that same strong preference for me when he decided that the number one scientific problem to solve was replacing animals as food. And it's a problem that nobody was working on in any serious way. Because everybody recognize that most people in the world, including most environmental scientists and people who care about this stuff. A love the food that we get from animals so much that they can't imagine giving those up Brown himself was a longtime vegan. So I yeah, I haven't eaten you know, beat for decades. And that's just a personal choice that I made long before I realized the destructive impact of that industry that was choice for other reasons. And it wasn't something that I felt like you know, I was in position. Other people to do. And I still don't feel like there's any value in doing that Brown makes an interesting point here. Many of us when we feel strongly about something and environmental issue or social or economic issue we're inclined to put forth a moral argument. A moral argument would appear to be persuasive evidence of the highest order, you should do this thing because it's the right thing to do. But there is a ton of research showing that moral arguments are generally ineffective people may smile at you and nod, but they won't change your behavior. That's what Brown realized about meet, the basic problem is that that people are not gonna stop wanting these foods, and the only way you're going to solve it is not by estimate you halfway and give them a substandard product that doesn't deliver. What they know they want from meat or fish or anything like that. The only way to do it is you have. Say we're going to do the much harder thing, which is we're going to figure out how to make meat. That's not just as delicious as the meat. We get from animals. It's more delicious and better, nutritionally and more affordable and so forth. In other words, a marginal improvement on the standard veggie burger would not do. It's Ben tried. It just doesn't work. It's a waste of effort. So Brown started fooling around in his lab. Doing some kind of micro experiments just to convince myself in a way that this was doable. Early experiments were fairly encouraging. I felt like okay. There's a bunch of things I thought could be useful. And then I felt like I could just go in with a little bit more confidence to talk the investors. The investors meaning venture capitalists. Remember Brown is at Stanford, which is next door to the biggest pile of venture capital in the history of the world. Then basically by pitch them was you know, it was it was very naive from a fundraising standpoint in the sense that basically I mostly just told them about how there's this absolutely critical environmental disaster. That needs to be solved, and and they're probably expecting to hear something about carbon capture. Yeah. That's that's the thing in most people still are so anyway bottled. So I just told these guys look, this is an environmental disaster knows doing anything about it. I'm gonna solve it for you. So how does the almost pediatrician who became a freewheeling biochemist build a better meet from the ground up that amazing story after the break? Okay. Bingo. This is how we're going to do it. Freakonomics radio is sponsored by capterra. The leading free online resource to help you find the best software solution for your business with over seven hundred thousand reviews of products from real software users. Capterra has everything you need to make an informed decision. No matter what your business needs. Visit. Capterra dot com slash freakonomics for free today to find the right tools to make two thousand nineteen year for your business. Capterra dot com slash freakonomics. Capterra that's C A P T E R, A dot com slash freakonomics. Freakonomics radio is sponsored by navy Federal Credit Union navy Federal's mission is to put members I by making their financial goals. The priority receive a lifetime of membership benefits like credit card APR average his four percent lower than the industries and access to over three hundred branches and thousands of fee free. ATM's navy federal is proud to serve over eight million members. Including over one million veterans and their families. For more information. Visit navyfederal dot org or call one eight eight four to six three two eight or download the navy Federal Credit Union app today. Message and data rates may apply. Visit navyfederal dot org. For more information. It's estimated that more than half of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with all animal agriculture comes from cows. And that is due to the fact that be for ruminant animals, the Purdue economists Jason Lusk again their stomachs produce methane comes out the front end, not the back end is a lot of people think. And as a consequence we look at carbon consequences, mainly beef that people focus on not pork or chicken because they don't have the same kind of Justice systems. There has been progress in this area. For instance, it turns out that adding seaweed to cattle feed drastically reduces their methane output. But the scientists Pat Brown is looking for much bigger change to the animal agriculture industry. If I could snap my fingers and make that industry disappear right now, which I would do if I could. And it'd be a great thing for the world. It is very unlikely to disappear anytime soon, it is a trillion dollar global industry supported in many places by government subsidies selling product that billions of people consume once twice even three times a day. Pat, Brown's desire would seem to be an impossible on the company. He founded is called impossible foods, it's essentially a tech startup, and it's raised nearly four hundred million dollars to date in venture capital. So we've only been in existence for about seven years, and we have about three hundred people we started by basically building a team of some of the best scientists in the world to study how meat works, basically. And by that. I mean to really understand that a basic level the way in my previous life when I was about medical scientist. We might be studying how a normal Sal of this particular, kind becomes a cancer cell understanding, the basic bio chemical mechanisms in this case, what we wanted to understand was what are the basic biochemical mechanisms that account for the unique flavor chemistry in the flavor behavior, and aromas and textures and juicy nece and all those qualities that consumers value in meat, and we spent about two and a half years just doing basic research trying to answer that question before we really started working on a product, and then decided for strategic reasons that our first product would be while ground beef made entirely from plants because Burger's what people want or well, there's a lot of reasons why I think it was a good strategic choice largest single category of meet new us. It's probably the most iconic kind of meat in the US. It seemed like the. Ideal vehicle for communicating to consumers that delicious meat doesn't have to come from animals because it's it's sort of the Uber meat for a lot of people who lower case you with a lower people are not Kaelin burgers. And beef production is the most environmentally destructive segment of the an wider culture industry. So from an impact standpoint, it made sense as a choice. Round said about repurposing the scientific wisdom he'd accrued over a long fruitful career in biomedicine a career that may improve the health and wellbeing of countless millions. And now he got to work on a truly earthshaking project building a better burger a burger that doesn't come from cow an impossible burger, so how did that work? What ingredients do you put in an impossible burger? That's an interesting aspect about the science, which is that we didn't look for what are the precisely specific choices of ingredients that would work. We studied what are the biochemical properties we need from the set of ingredients. And then we did a survey of things available from the plant world that match those biophysical properties and so forth of which there were choices. So what? Are the main components of this burger, I can tell you what it's made of right now. The what it's made of right now is different from how it was made two years ago, and that was different from how is made two and a half years ago. And the next version we're going to launch quite different set of ingredients. We I interviewed Brown several months ago, the main ingredients at the time included a protein from wheat protein from potatoes and starch from potatoes. But a protein from potatoes byproduct of starch production among the other ingredients coconut oils, major fats horse, and then we have a bunch of other small molecules, but they're all familiar things, you know, acids of vitamin sugars nutrients, but all these ingredients did not make Pat Brown's plant based hamburger, meat taste or act or look lake hamburger meat. It was still missing a critical component a component called hime. Okay. So he has found in essentially every living thing. Ng and he in and human animals is the exact same molecule. Okay. It's it's just one of the most ubiquitous and fundamental molecules in life on earth period. The system that burns calories to produce energy uses him as an essential component. And it's what carries oxygen in your blood, and what makes your blood red? And none of this. We discovered this has been known for a long time. And and so animals have a lot more hime than plants, and it's at very high concentration of hime that accounts for the unique flavors of meat that you would recognize something as meat. It's the overwhelmingly dominant factor in making the unique taste of meat and visit is involved in texture and mouth feel and all that as well. Does taste just say, okay, just taste texture and mouth feel are really important. And there's a whole nother set of research around that super important, it kind of gets short shrift because people think of the flavor is sort of the most dramatic thing about me, but you have to get out of their stuff right to Brown. And his team of scientists after a couple years of research and experimentation were getting a lot of that stuff. Right. But without him a lot of hime their meatless meat would never resemble meat. So there is one component of a certain kind of plant that has a high concentration of human that is in client fix nitrogen taken from the air and turn it into fertilizer. They they have a structure called root nodule where the nurtured fixation takes place, and for reasons that are too complicated. Explain right now, they they that has high concentration of him. And I just happen to know this from way back, and if you slice open the root nodules of one of these plants they have such a high concentration of teams that they looked like a freshly cut steak. Okay. And and I did a calculation about the concentration of that stuff. So like opens the protein, which is virtually identical to the him protein in muscle tissue, which called Maya globe. And that there was enough leg hemoglobin in the root nodules of the US soybean. Crop to replace all the hime in all the meat consumed in the US. Okay. So I thought genius. Okay. We'll just go out and harvest all these root nodules from the US soybean crop. And we'll get this stuff practically for free. Well, so I raised money for the company, and we spent like half the money trying to figure out how to harvest these root nodules from soybean plant only, basically definetely convince ourselves said there was a terrible idea. But if you are a veteran, scientists lake Brown, a little failure is not so offputting. You know, you're going to be doing things that are pushing the limits and trying tire new things and a lot of mortga fail. And if you don't have a high tolerance for that. And realize that basically the way you do really really important cool stuff is by trying a lot of things and not punishing yourself for the failures. But just celebrating the successes. You're not going to accomplish as much in the idea of buying up all the root nodules of the US soybean crop wasn't a complete failure. I mean, we got enough that we could do experiments to prove that really wasn't magic ingredient from flavor and so forth. But then we had to start all over. And then what we did was. We said, okay, we're gonna have to engineer a micro organism to produce gobs of this protein. Okay. And since now, we weren't bound by any natural source. We looked at like three dozen different proteins, everything from you know, Paramus AM to barley to hells gate bacteria, which is like this. It's a plant. It's back. There's a bacteria that lives in an deep sea vents at near New Zealand. That's that survives temperatures above the boiling point of water that we mostly just looked at for fun. But finding about that. And the reason we rejected is that that you it so heat stable that you can cook a burger to cook. Temperature and it still says stays bright red because it doesn't unfold, but anyway, and then we pick the best one which turned out to be just coincidentally soil hemoglobin, which was the one we were going ask to begin actually pretty good. It wasn't really a brilliant idea. Accidentally turned out to be the right choice through the magic of modern plant engineering. Pat Brown's team began creating massive stocks of him and that hime would help catapult the impossible burger will beyond the realm of the standard veggie burger the mostly unloved veggie burger, we should say the impossible burger looks like hamburger meat when it's raw. And when it's cooked it behaves like hamburger meat most important, it tastes like hamburger me the American impossible. And how would you like? Medium medium. In the middle. The freakonomics radio team recently eight some impossible burgers in a restaurant near time square. I actually can't take it tastes like. Good day for the impossible for economics. But Zac, Pinski Alson Cregg Lil Ryan Kelly and Greg Rippin their meal happened to coincide with the release of impossible burger two point. Oh, an updated recipe that uses a soy protein instead of a week protein and has a few more tweaks less salt sunflower oil to cut the coconut oil and no more. Zanthosyn Gummer Konjic gum in my own tasting experience impossible burger one point. Oh was really good. But a little slushy two point zero was burger tastic. I did not record my burger tasting. But if I did it would sounded like this. These are. Of course are subjective. Observations. Here's some actual evidence. Impossible burgers are already being served in roughly five thousand locations, primarily in the US. But also, Hong Kong and Macau these include very high end restaurants in New York and California as well as fast food chains. Like, mommy burger and even white castle this year impossible plans to start selling its burger meat in grocery stores, we've grown in terms of our sales and revenue and so forth about thirty fold in the past year. And our goal is to completely replace food technology by twenty thirty five that means we have to approximately double in size and impact every year for the next eighteen years. Are we understand that you or taking aim at pigs and chickens and fish as well? Yes, of course. So when we first started out, we were working on technology platform, and sort of the know how about how meat works. In general, we are working on understanding dairy products, and cheeses and stuff like that. And then we decide okay, we have to pick one product launch with. And then we have to from commercials ation Sandpoint just go all in on it for a while as the scientists as a scientist were you reluctant to kind of narrow yourself for that commercial interest. Or did you appreciate that? This is the way in this world things actually happened. Both. I mean, let's go this way. I would like to be able to to pursue all these things in parallel in if I had the resources I would. But if we launched another product right now, we just be competing against ourselves for resources for commercialization. So just doesn't make any sense. We put out an episode not long ago called two totally opposite ways to save the planet. It featured the science journalist Charles man, are we're going to deal with climate change. There've been two ways that have been suggested overarching ways represent if you like polls a continuum and they've been fighting with each other for decades, the two polls are represented by what man calls in his latest book the wizard and the profit the prophecies environmental destruction as a problem. Best addressed by restoring nature to its natural state the wizard. Meanwhile, believes that technology can address environmental dangers, this is of course, a typology shorthand a profit doesn't necessarily fear technology any more than a wizard fears nature that said if there were ever an embodiment of the wizard profit hybrid a person driven by ideal. Realism and pragmatism in equal measure. I'd say it's Pat Brown, which means his invention has the capacity to upset. People all across the spectrum. The consumers and activists who might cheer meatless meat are often the same sort of people who are anti GMO genetically modified organisms in the impossible burger would not have been possible. Without it's genetically modified hime, which by the way, the FDA recently declared safe after challenges from environmental groups, like friends of the earth another group that might object to impossible foods the meat industry. You know, the ones who use actual animals to raise food. My name is Kelly Fogarty, and I serve as the executive vice president for the United States Cattlemen's association, and I am a fifth generation. Beef cattle rancher here in oakdale, California. I'm just curious as a woman, do you? Find yourself ever wishing the US Cattlemen's association would change their name or UK with. You know, it's funny. You mentioned that there's always a little bit of a notion there in the back of my mind of of, you know, of course, being an industry for so long. I take it as representing all of the livestock industry. But you know, definitely having a special nod to all the female ranchers out. There would be nice to have as well. And what is the primary difference between the US Cattlemen's association and the national Cattlemen's beef association as the United States Cattlemen's association. We are made up primarily of cattle producers so your family ranches cow calf operations run by producers and kind of four producers as what US was built on. Whereas national Cattlemen's beef association does include some more of Packer influences as well as some of the processing facilities as well. Can you just talk generally for moment? How big of a threat does the beef industry see from alternative? Quote, meet. So from our end, you know, looking at the quote, unquote, meat and appreciate you hito using those quotes around that too. From our in not so much seeing it as a threat to our product. We really looking at is not a limit on consumer choice or trying to back one product out of the market. It's really to make sure that we're keeping the information out there accurate, and that what is available to consumers in. What is being shown to consumers on labels is accurate to what the product actually is? Two thousand eighteen Fogarty's organization filed a petition with the USDA to prevent products from being labeled as beef for meet unless they come from cow. I mean, does that mean that your organization thinks that consumers are confused by labeling that the primary objection? So the primary junction from from the United Kingdom association is that we want to keep the term meet to what is traditionally harvested and raised in the traditional manner. And so when we see the term meat being put on these products that is not derived from that definition, what our producers came to us in really wanted us to act on was what we saw happened in other industries specifically when you look at the dairy industry, and where the term milk has now been used. Almond milk, for instance, which comes from almonds not animals, which led the national milk. Producers federation to argue that it should not be sold as almond milk. The FDA. Agreed. It's Commissioner pointed out that quote, an almond doesn't lactate there are important differences between so-called milk that doesn't come from animals and so-called meet that doesn't come from animals almond milk has very different nutritional content than cow's milk. The impossible burger, meanwhile has a similar nutritional profile to hamburger, including the iron content which vegans can have trouble getting enough. That's another reason why Kellie Fogarty and the US Cattlemen's association might not want the impossible burger to be labeled me. I am just curious about the kind of I guess mental state of your industry because I was looking at your Facebook page and one post the other day lead with with the following eat or be eaten be at the table or on the menu fight or be forgotten. So that sounds it would make me believe that the future of me is one in which cattle ranchers feel a little bit like an endangered species, or at least under a salt. I think that speaks to a lot of I think misconceptions that are out there regarding the US beef industry, whether it be in terms of, you know, attrition environment animal welfare. We've we've really been hit from a lot of different angles over the years. Okay. We'll according to some scientific research meat production. And or cattle ranching are among the most environmental. Damaging activities on on earth between the resource intensiveness land. But especially water and the extra analogies the runoff manure chemicals into groundwater. I think one of the first points to make is that cattle are really they're defined as as what is termed as up cycler 's and so- cattle today, they're turning plants that have little to no nutritional value just as is into a high quality and a highly high dense protein, and so when you look at where cattle grazing in the US, and then also across the world a lot of the land that they are grazing on that is not suitable for crops or would be kind of looking as a highly marginal type of of land and the ability of livestock to turn. What is there into something that kid feed the world is? Pretty remarkable. Fogarty believes her industry has been unfairly maligned that has come to be seen as a target for environmentalist groups and causes. I would absolutely say, you know, the livestock industry and into that matter agriculture industry as a whole I think has really been at the brunt of a lot of a lot of disinformation campaigns Fogarty points to that u n report claiming that the global livestock industries greenhouse gas emissions were shockingly high report that was found to be built on faulty calculations. Yeah. So it was really an unacceptable and grossly inflated percentage that really turned a conversation the inflated percentage of around eighteen percent was really around fourteen point five percent. So grossly inflated. Maybe in the eye of the aggrieved Fogarty says, even though the air was knowledged. And a revised report was issued folks. Have not forgotten it as much as we wish. It's still something that it's hard to have folks kind of unreal. Or unknow something that they initially saw. The fact is that the agriculture industry is massive and massively complex without question. It exacts costs on the environment. It also provides benefits that are literally the stuff of life, delicious, abundant affordable food as with any industry. There are trade-offs and there's friction activists tend to overstate their claims in order to encourage reform industry defenders tend to paper over legitimate concerns. But in the food industry, especially it's clear that a revolution is underway. A revolution to have our food be not just delicious and abundant and affordable. But sustainable too with fewer negative externalities. Some startups like impossible foods, focus on cleverly engineering plant matter to taste like the animal flesh, so many people love other startups are working on what's call. Lab grown meat using animal stem cells to grow food without animals. This is still quite young technology. But it's very well funded curious to hear Kelly fogies view of this. One of the investors in the lab meet quote company. Memphis meets is Cargill which is a major constituent of the big meat industry. I mean, another investor for what it's worth is. Bill gates. But I'm curious what's what your position on that? Because the way I think about this long-term presumably a firm like Cargill can win the future with alternative, quote, meet in a way that a cattle rancher can't. So I'm curious what the position is of ranchers on this kind of investment from a firm light cargo or other firms that are sort of hedging their bets on the future of meat. You know, and it's a really interesting point in. It's it's been a bit of a tough pill for producers to swallow. The fact that some of the big three some of these big processing plants that have been so obviously heavily focused and have been livestock dominant. Are now kind of going into this alternative in in in. Sometimes a cell cultured lab meets alternative proteins, and it really has been appointed contention. Among a lot of producers who are kind of confused unsure fill a little bit. You know, kind of oh trying to think of the right term here. But I don't wanna say betrayed by by the industry, but but a little bit so others may soon feel betrayed as well. A company called modern meadows is using similar technology to grow leather in the lab without the need for cattle. These Rayleigh comes. Any super meat is focused on growing chicken. And then there's a company called finless foods finless, boots is taking seafood back to basics, and creating real fish meat entirely. Without mercury plastic without the need for antibiotics or growth hormones and also without the need for fishing or the killing of animals because we grow the fish to wreck leave from stem cells. It's Mike Selden the co founder and CEO of finless. He's twenty seven years old. He started out as a cancer researcher. Like, Pat Brown, you could call him a wizard profit hybrid. He does take issue with the idea of lab grown food. The reality is like labs are by definition experimental and are not scalable see this won't be grown in a lab at all. It's prototypes. In a lab in the same way. The snacks are prototypes. In a lab, Doritos or prototypes. In a lab by material. Scientists looking at different dimensions of. Crunch in torsion, and all these other sort of mechanical properties. So what are facility will look like when we're actually at production skill. It's something really a lot closer to a brewery, big steel tanks that are sort of allowing these cells space in order to divide and grow into large quantities of themselves. Well, accessing all of the nutrients that we put inside of this nutritional broth, the fishing industry like the meat industry. Exact its share of environmental costs, but lake Pat Brown. Mike Selden does not want his company to win on goodwill points. So the goal of finless foods is not to create something that competes on ethics or morals or environmental goals. It's something that will compete on taste price nutrition, the things that people actually care about, you know, right now, everybody really loves Wales and people hate when Wales are killed what changed because we used to kill whales for their blubber in order to light lamps. It was. Isn't an ethical movement. It wasn't that people woke up one day and decided killing whales is wrong. It was that we ended up using kerosene. Instead, we found another logical solution a supply side change that didn't play on people's morals in order to win. We see ourselves as something like that. Why work with an animal at all? You don't need to. Indeed, you could imagine the not so distant future a scenario in which you could instantly summon any food imaginable, new foods new combinations. But also foods that long ago fell out of favour. How much fun would that be? I asked the agriculture economists Jason Lusk about this. If we had a three D printer, and let's say head just will be conservative a hundred buttons of different foods that it could make me does anyone press the button button. One of the great things about our food system is that it's a food system. Yes, makes food affordable. But also has a whole awful lot of choice for people who are willing to pay it. And I bet there's probably at least one or two people out there. That'll push that button. I also asked Lusk for his economic views on the future of meat, especially the sort of projects that inventors like Mike Selden and Pat Brown or working on. I have no problems with what? You know, Dr Brown's trying to do there. And indeed, I think it's very exciting this technology in I think, you know, alternately it'll come down to whether this lab grown meat can compete on the marriage. So there's no free lunch here. In fact, impossible burger I've seen it on menus. It's almost always higher price than the traditional beefburger. Now as an economist. I look at that and say those prices to me should be signaling something about resource use. Maybe it's in 'perfect. Maybe there's some extra analogies, but they should reflect all the resources that were used to go into produce that product. It's one of the reasons that beef is more expensive than say chicken. It takes more time more inputs to get produce a pound of beef than a pound of chicken. So why is it that the impossible burger is more expensive than the regular burger? Now, it could be that this is just a start up and they're not working at scale. Once they really scale the saying up at a really bring the price down. It could be they're also marketing to particular higher income consumers. Willing to pay a little more. But I think you know, if the claims about the impossible burger are truth overtime, one would expect these products to come down significantly in price and be much less expensive beef production, and this is not gonna make my be friends happy. But if they can do that good for them in consumers want to pay for this the life the way, it tastes, and it saves money, which means it savings resources. I think in that sense. It's great technology. Whether or not you eat meat, whether or not you're interested in eating these alternative meets from plant matter or animal stem cells, it's hard to not add Meyer, the creativity. The someone like Pat Brown has exercised the deep curiosity. The ability to come back from failure the sheer cleverness of putting together dispered ideas into a coherent scientific plan. So coming up next time on frigging radio. We get back to our series on creativity. We ask scientists artists and others where do those ideas come from? Sometimes they come out of nowhere. You think? And then it turns out that they came from the future. So the question was are there patterns in the universe? Are there features? Is there some geometry inspiration is for amateurs the rest of just show up and get to work. How to be creative idea generation that's next time and frigging radio. Freakonomics radio is produced by Stitcher. In w productions this episode was produced by Zach Lipinski. Our staff also includes Alison Craig low, Greg Rippin, and Harry Huggins we had helped this week from Nelly Osborne. Are fem- song is Mr. fortune by the Hitchhiker's all the other music was composed by we scare you can subscribe to freakonomics radio an apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcast. The entire archive is available on the Stitcher app or at freakonomics dot com where we also publish transcripts show notes and much more. If you want the entire archive ad free. Plus, lots of bonus episodes, go to Stitcher premium dot com slash freakonomics. We can also be found on Twitter, Facebook and Lincoln or via Email at radio at freakonomics dot com for straight. You also plays on many NPR stations. If we're not on yours. Call them tell them to change their ways as always thanks for listening. Stitcher. Hello. I'm JC lung comedian writer, a new labout stuff. And I'm a whole lot of fun in Joni Donohoe, I'm also a comedian also Royston an actor on fun. Thanks. This is all about cost, and it's called Josie Johnny having a baby with you. And if you can't tell from the till we are about to have a child really are and workless we really we have a whole host of questions that we're trying to ask like, how are we gonna pay for? This thing is to problem if you lose it how we gonna work around this thing, we're talking lots of famous people who happen tool. Ready be parents to help us on some of these questions and mill. JC Jenny having a baby with you is out now, and you can hear it on Stitcher on Kosovo wherever you get your poke us your only job in the beginning seated and change and hold TV change in holds. But you'd need to sleep as well storable.

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