Meat: Breaking a 2.5 Million Year Old Habit

Automatic TRANSCRIPT

From mid management and Weekday Nineteen thirty one was not not a good year in the remarkable career Winston Churchill. His Conservative Party have been defeated two years earlier and he had lost most of his American investments. The stock market crashed so the future British prime minister we cast himself as a right wrote. A couple of hefty historical tone accepted assignments from popular magazine. One of these commissions came from Strand magazine which asked him to write a speculative asset for the December nineteen seventy-one edition on what the world might look like in fifty fifty years judge made dozens of predictions about robots and the triumph man over nature. But perhaps his boldest boldest prognostication was that by nineteen eighty-one people would be eating. Synthetic meet run entirely away. We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to just eat the breast or the manx he wrote. He predicted elected. These parts could be grown from animal cells. There would no longer be any need to slaughter animals to get meat and those new foods would be practically practically indistinguishable from the real thing. Winston Churchill's prediction seemed like science fiction in nineteen. Thirty one. It but not anymore. It took thirty years longer than he thought but lab me is now here. We're on the cusp of a meatless. Meet Eight Revolution Walter. Isaacson and you're listening to the trailblazers and original podcast from Dell technologies abundant protein rich meat native third that we are like basically tender grandkids. AM flavorful meat. Contributes to the wellbeing and strength of people in our country is good and pure Alaska. Paul says links. Thanks take back by the insurance uncle. Sam himself two and a half million years. That's how long it's been since humans. I have been eating meat from animals and wild today. Scientists are warning that we have to stop eating meat. In order to lessen the impact impact of climate change historians tell us was a different period of climate change. That drove us to eat meat. In the first place. Martin's Rosca is the author of Meat hawked the history and science of our two point five million Europe session with meat. So what happens. Two and a half million years ago is that the climate has changed the Savannah where our ancestors lift at the time became aimed drier and hotter and many plant foods that our ancestors were relying on became much less available especially from January to April which was does the particularly dry season so they couldn't basically find the foods and the leaves that they were eating habitually on the other hand would became became more available more abundant was meat because they were suddenly many more grazing animals so with more grazing species there are also more that animal flying around basically so there was meet lying around and our ancestors tried and discovered. It's you know it's good. It's highly caloric full of fat. And they started eating ants. Humans are not actually well suited biologically the meat jaws and teeth. Don't have the strength to bite raw meat of an animal caucus so these earliest meters use primitive tools to cut the meat plus the bones of get it would take hundreds of thousands of years more before we went from being scavengers eating whatever meat we found lying on the ground becoming hunters the most sophisticated tools and then many more thousands of youth before me with Cook over an open fire and all all the while the bodies and minds of those early humans evolved into the modern form. Something that many researchers bleep. You never would've happened. They hadn't been consuming meat and the reason for that is that meat for our ancestors was a very high quality polity food loaded of color because of fat but also full of minerals and vitamins. And because it was such a high quality food could power our brains human brains are very energy inefficient so they only weighed about two percent of our body weight our brains but they they take up to twenty five percent of our resting energy and power such a brain you need a lot of energy and before our ancestors started eating meat they had very big guts because you know digest. Low quality food with lots of fiber for example leaves or grass. You really the really big got. What about when we started eating meat? The food was much denser in calories so the gut could shrink. This freed energetic resources that way used for the growing brain this why some scientists say that's meet made us human by the Middle Ages meet had become a very popular food food but it was a luxury enjoyed mostly by the rich and powerful. Think about the story of Robinhood robinhood. What crime was he being accused of? He allegedly kill the deer and the kings farce presumably so he could share the bounty Johny. What's a common folk? Their Diet was still largely made up plant protein because they were denied access to land where they might be able to hunt game but all that changed when the common folk again to make their way to the new world. Roger Horowitz is the the author of putting meat on the American table taste technology and transformation the early British colonists the ordinary ordinary people came over the speculators. There are people down there look. They're looking for a new start for various reasons. Life in England had not worked out for them and they're looking to do better so they are aspiring people and they come over here and the forest are full of wild game and the cane doesn't own them is there's all sorts of opportunities to eat meat and they love it and the opportunity to forage if the forest opportunity to kill wild animals. Eat them amazing. Amazing to have this opportunity in America meat may not have been a primary driver of settlement in the colonial period nor later on when large numbers of European immigrants came aimed will have chores but it was part of the attraction in the nineteenth century when you have immigrants coming over like the Irish the Germans early nineteenth century. The availability of meat gets commented on the letters that they write home. The Irish especially the idea they can come to New York City in the eighteen forties eighteen fifties after after starving in Ireland and they can eat beef three times a day is astounding. There they write back and people don't believe them. This can't be true. Not It's true we can do that so this is with an immigrant population a laboring population coming at a later. Point that you see this being referenced but it becomes part of the immigrant an experience that they are able to have access to meet by the beginning of the nineteenth century residents of New York City. They were eating about one hundred and fifty pounds of meat per person each year in the nineteen thirties and forties meat consumption except not for lack of one but for lack of access. I because of the Great Depression and then during World War Two when it became came the subject of government rationing but when the good times returned after the war ended so too did Americans appetite. For me Roger Horowitz. They're not able to get meat because they can't there are the money or it's being scarce it all that they haven't done it because they've decided or because you know they've learned or taught something different they just can't get it. It's a frustrated desire. And so so why would that go away. Why would that happen that you could that you couldn't get it especially when all the nutritional establishment and everybody who's talking to the kids in schools in in home economics and everything like that is saying? Well you really should have more meat because it's good for you so there's no there's no pushback no opposition to that idea that you should should have more meat when you have the resources to do so today the US processes more than a hundred billion pounds of meat and poultry every year. The industry employs more than half a million people accounts for over a trillion dollars of economic output. That's more than five percent percent of the US GDP so taking on that industry by asking Americans eat less meat but that'd be something for the faint of heart but by the end of the century. Several brave souls step forward and we're advocating precisely that the first front line in the battle against meet over the health effects of excessive meat consumption as a result since the mid nineteen seventies. Many Americans cut back back on that consumption of red meat and began eating more chicken which was seen as leaner and safer but by around the turn of the century a a second front open that posed a fundamental challenge to meets primacy in the American Diet Drouin research that that linked animal based Diet to climate change environmental degradation and the collapse of biodiversity. My Name is Pat Brown and I'm the founder and CEO impossible foods in two thousand nine. Pat Brown was a fifty. Five year-old biochemist at Stanford University when he decided added that is new mission in life would be to find a way to stop people from relying on animals for their meat. At the time I was a professor in the medical scored load and I had a sabbatical and I was asking myself. What's the most important problem that I can help solve in the world but I discovered discovered somewhat to my surprise that the use of animals as a food technology it's one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the world? It's by far the biggest user of freshwater in the world by far the biggest polluter of water in the world and probably even more significant than all of that it occupies more than forty five percent of the entire land surface of earth so an Area larger than North America South America Europe and Australia combined is actively being used right now raising animals for food and and largely because of that huge land footprint it is by far the biggest driver of what is now a catastrophic collapse in global biodiversity. And it's almost entirely due to habitat destruction and degradation by animal agriculture culture on land and overfishing in the ocean so what it comes down to is the most destructive technology on earth is the use of animals to produce food so Pat Brown's had outdoor place animal based meat was something that consumers would still be attracted to without the the environmental consequences. So how do you solve the problem. You have to reframe it and the problem is not that people are consuming. These foods that we're making them the wrong way that we're using this technology this prehistoric technology. That's incredibly inefficient. Resource inefficient and destructive live on a global scale namely animals to turn plants into meat and dairy products and fish. We got this embedded assumption that the the only way you can make meet is by feeding an animal and then cutting it into pieces but in fact from a consumer standpoint the value proposition of meat has nothing to do with with Howard made. It's just that it is delicious. In a particular way is a dense source of protein and iron and micro nutrients. It's it's convenient affordable familiar. So we have to figure out a better technology a better way of producing these foods that the world is going to continue to love the vastly more sustainably and for this to work. We have to make foods that outperform for the consumer all the ways that matter for the Consumer Pat Brown John was convinced that meat substitutes derived from plants rather than animals could appeal to most meat eaters but only only if he could find the answer to one critical question. The most important scientific question in the world is what makes me delicious because if you can can answer that question and understand well enough that you can create foods that deliver that deliciousness with much more sustainable ainable ingredients. You have solved the greatest threat that are plant has probably ever faced Pat Brown on started impossible foods in California in two thousand eleven and gathered a group of scientists to try to solve the deliciousness. Committal one of the things that is apparent. When you think about me flavor particularly when you're thinking about what happens when you cook meat is that you have this dramatic transformation of the flavor profile and you have in the process this explosion of flavor and aroma? That's unlike anything you get from cooking a plant to me that suggested that there was a catalyst that produces hundreds of novel molecules. That weren't present in the product beforehand. Impossible's scientists decided to focus on a molecule called which is found in the muscles of cal. They believe is primarily responsible for giving beef. It's yeasty bloody savory flavor by Augmon implants they could create a product that looked and tasted like meat by two thousand. Sixteen Brown was ready ready to bring his impossible burger to the market. It's main ingredients will wheat potato protein and oil from coconuts and sunflower. I wish he essentially place the week. The soy which is lower in fat and she but he is. He boasts that his Burger Duggar requires eighty-seven percent less water than a beef. Burger uses ninety six percent less land and generates eighty nine percent you a greenhouse gas emissions and it performs well in blind taste tests with mediators the company has attracted hundreds of millions of dollars from investors like Bill Gates and it is valued at about two billion dollars. It's burgers are available it over seventeen thousand thousand restaurants including Burger King and white castle. Impossible isn't the only plant based bugger in the market. Its biggest competitor is beyond meat another California company that is already selling its products in grocery stores something that is still a year or two away for impossible Pat Brown says he welcomes anyone who shares his mission when he started impossible foods. Eight years ago he said his goal was to completely replace animals in the food. Chain by twenty thirty five essentially is on track to do that. But can you really take on one trillion dollar industry. I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think the answer was yes I absolutely do. There's been many many many instances instances in history where a very well entrenched seemingly ubiquitous and formidable industry has been replaced in a matter of decades. Aides are even less by fundamentally better technology that does a better job of delivering. What consumers value and in a way doesn't matter or how big and formidable and politically powerful you are if someone is doing a better job of satisfying consumers? You know you're out of luck. The scope and scale of Pat Brown ambition is nothing short of staggering. Convincing Americans. Give up animal base. Meet in in favor of meat. Derived from plant will be hard enough but meat. Consumption is growing up around the world as global income levels rise in the early one thousand nine hundred eighty s the average person in China. It about thirty pounds of media but today China's rising middle-class consumes an average of nearly a hundred and forty pounds and not. Everyone is convinced that offering a plant based alternative will ultimately get billions of meat eaters. There's to change their habits. They argue that the only thing that can replace meat is meat. I'm Mark Post Post. I am chief scientific officer of Motza meet startup that aims to commercialize cultures mute remembered the prediction that Winston Churchill may back in nineteen thirty one. One that could be grown in a lab. You might say that Mark Post is a man who's taken up that challenge. poche was a professor fester in the medical school at University in the Netherlands in two thousand and sex when he was asked to help out with a study that was being funded by the Dutch government lament the idea was to place muscle cells in a nutrient rich serum and encouraged US cells to grow into muscle so like fibers are many medical applications for this. What but the Dutch researchers looking beyond Madison? They he believed that. If you can turn animals stem cells into muscle fibers. You can actually grow synthetic meet in the lab. It could be the best has to both work real neat. That doesn't require a real animal now. I thought it was a great idea and I was also ready involved in tissue engineering for medical purposes and the more I learned about the problems with meat production in the next thirty five years. The more enthusiastic I became about this entire project not only scientifically but also for its suicidal impact. There were scientific hurdles that still had to be overcome but the main obstacle was money. They would need lots of it to scale up produced cell base meat for commercial mass consumption. It didn't help when in two thousand hasn't nine. The Dutch government withdrew funding for the project and basically the language that the government used. We don't see any commercial interest from companies companies in this kind of triggered me. I said well you know this is such a great idea. We need to be able to get this across the general population. So let's make make a sausage from a pig presented to the press while the pig is honking around on the stage and so that was kind of the image was for me was a very unusual kind I thought because I I just basically was a biomedical scientists but I was so frustrated. Is You know W- we'll show them. We needed quite a bit of money to do that. That wasn't really lying around so we had to wait until we got that money and then kind of out of the blue. That was a year and a half or two years later the office of Sergei Brin approached. Just me and said we want to talk to you about this project that you're doing and when we come over Sergei brand is one of the co founders of Google but while marked post had of course heard of people you've never heard of Sergei Graham so when Brennan's representative came came calling post had no idea who he was dealing with post told his visitor about his idea of creating a so based sausage and holding a press conference or the pig on the stage and the representative of Sergei Brennan said. Oh Yeah we will support that. How much money do you need and body set off a couple plus million would be fine Indian? We got the money that we needed to make. That event happened so suddenly Mark Post I had all the money he needed to make his cell meet prototype and the money came with only one string attached tugay brand. Dan wanted a hamburger on the stage. Not a sausage well that was basically a not a request but the demand from Sergei Britain. If you're going to do this it has to be a hamburger not sausage. It's an American thing and that was actually quite fortunate. I think because environmental impact impact of beef is actually a lot higher than that of pork and so on August fifth twenty thirteen. The first I sell Burger was ready to be unveiled at a press conference in London. The event was carried live around the world and included a taste test by food critic. Who of course very gratifying moment? That you because you you have been living up to this for two three years and to finally make that happen was was the big thing so I was pretty happy throughout. It was also a little bit nerve wracking because we had no idea how to tasters basically would respond onto it if they would spit out. Say Yuck this is nothing like we expected or if they would be at least somewhat positive about it we had no idea so that was nerve wracking thing but all in all the whole event went pretty well and I wasn't even noticeably nervous but somebody told me I was tapping my fingers continuously on a desk so Hawaii. Apparently I was the world's first. Cellular Burger got good reviews from the food critic but most of the press coverage focused on cost cost not taste the price tag on. That Burger was three hundred and thirty thousand dollars so mark mark post needed to find a way to drive down costs significantly or his cell Burger would remain an interesting science experiment with no commercial potential and more importantly no potential to solve the environmental challenges caused by animal based meat production. So one of the things that makes cell culture extremely expensive is factors Proteins that stimulate cells to grow and day cost like a million euro per gram. Unfortunately you need only very very small amounts but still if you start to grow at large scale. This is US prohibitive but I learned pretty quickly that end feed industry in a completely different industry not the biomedical part. But the feed industry people people are making similar proteins with similar technology for five. You're a programmer for Europe Aram. I thought well if we can do that. And I and the price of the cell culture drops tremendously and then we started to look at more components of this feat for cells. And we realized realized that if you source differently and you make it a little bit of a different composition you can actually make these very cheap type of Takashi in two thousand fifteen mark post started his own company called motion meet to continue his quest to develop affordable cellular alert meet at a commercial scale. Today he says the price of a Cell Burger is down to about fifteen eighteen dollars still too expensive song grocery three stores but he hopes to be able to increase meat production to the point. We can offer it in some higher end restaurants but then a couple of years post and Brown a two of the trailblazer. We're trying to address the enormous enormous environmental challenges. We are facing by leading what could be doric transformation in our eating at indeed indeed the biggest dietary revolution since humans for started eating me two point five million years ago. I'm Walter Walter Isaacson and you've been listening to trailblazers original podcast from Dell technologies for more on any of the guests on today's show. You can head to our website at Dell technologies dot com slash trailblazers. Thanks for listening.

Coming up next