The Skyrocketing Business of Vegan Food Aims to Save the World
The smart money these days is going vegan. Veganism is teetering precariously on the cusp of – dare we say it – becoming mainstream. Al Gore recently went vegan, Bill Clinton remarkably still is eating mostly a plant-based diet, and vegan mentions are almost ubiquitous in movies and TV shows these days.
Today, companies are working to create more sustainably produced foods that do not use animals as ingredients. Public demand for such foods is increasing. More critically, the future of the planet may depend on these new foods.
High profile big money investors like Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Twitter co-founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams don’t throw their cash around foolishly. It’s therefore worth paying attention when a handful of promising companies wins them over in a big way. They’ve sunk some hefty funding into a couple of new companies producing faux meat and faux eggs.
These movers and shakers like supporting start-ups with enticing potential, grand ideals and major ambition. The pursuit of plant-based eating provides all this and more.
Why We Must Shift to Sustainable Plant-Based Eating
These investors recognize that the planet cannot sustain its current level of industrialized animal farming. There’s a big problem with our reliance on meat, dairy and eggs, and it’s only going to get worse.
If you’re an animal lover, you already despise the grinding, horrifying cruelty of today’s factory farms. Gone are the bucolic, rolling pasturelands dotted with roaming farm animals that our grandparents remember. Farmers just can’t meet the staggering worldwide demand for meat, eggs and dairy by doing business that way anymore.
To make raising livestock profitable, chickens are caged together so tightly they can’t spread their wings or walk around – ever. Pigs are jammed into gestation crates they cannot turn around in, their teeth and tails cut off without anesthetic to keep them from chewing at one another out of madness or boredom. Cattle are kept constantly impregnated so their milk will never stop flowing, while their newborn calves are carted off to become veal.
If the plight of farmed animals isn’t enough to turn you plant-based, have you taken a close look at the effects of today’s farming practices on the environment? The statistics are sobering:
- 76 percent of all U.S. farmland is used only to graze livestock. That’s 614 million acres of pasture, 157 million acres of public land and 127 million acres of forest.
- In addition to the above, if you also factor in the land used to grow feed for animals, a staggering 97 percent of U.S. agricultural land is devoted to sustaining livestock and poultry.
- Animals raised for food create 89,000 pounds of manure per second, causing extensive groundwater pollution.
- 30 percent of the entire land surface of the Earth is used by livestock.
- 70 percent of Amazon deforestation is directly due to clearing land to provide livestock grazing area.
- 33 percent of the world’s arable land is used to produce feed only for livestock.
- More than 70 percent of the crops we grow in the U.S. are produced just to feed meat-producing livestock.
- 70 percent of available water is used for growing crops, most of which feed livestock, not people.
- It takes 13 pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat.
Despite all of the above, worldwide meat production will explode from 229 million tons in 2001 to 465 million tons by 2050, while global milk output will increase from 580 million tons in 2001 to 1043 million tons by 2050.
“There will not be enough water available on current croplands to produce food for the expected 9 billion population in 2050 if we follow current trends and changes towards diets common in western nations,” according to a report issued in 2012 by Stockholm International Water Institute.
Our current system simply won’t enable us to feed 9 billion people a the current rate at which we consume meat, eggs and dairy. Crunch the numbers and it becomes disturbingly clear that something must change – soon.
That’s why smart, high dollar investors are eyeing companies which understand this coming crisis and are offering solutions. They’re out in front, paving the way for a plant-based future. Just look at the following two examples.
It‘s Time to Go “Beyond Meat”
Beyond Meat is aiming to become an alternative protein that can compete with — and perhaps one day replace — animal-based protein. It currently produces realistic “chicken strips,” and soon will offer “beef” crumbles.
Twitter’s Biz Stone was thoroughly impressed with the alternative protein possibilities he saw in Beyond Meat, which is why he became an investor.
“These guys are coming at the meat analogue industry not as a novelty kind of thing or hippy dippy,” Stone told Fast Company’s Co.Exist. “They were coming at it from this big science, super practical, scalable angle. They were saying, ‘We want to get into the multi-billion-dollar meat industry with a plant-based meat.’”
Once a few good, sustainably produced meat substitutes land a solid foothold in the market, perhaps the next step is getting the cow, chicken and pig completely out of the food chain? Yes, please.
The Incredible, Edible Egg (Substitute)
Hampton Creek Foods wants to revolutionize the egg industry by making eggs unnecessary. Early indications are that it is well on its way with a product called, coincidentally,”Beyond Eggs.”
Interest in Hampton Creek Foods ratcheted up considerably after an investment conference in 2012. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Microsoft’s Bill Gates taste tested two blueberry muffins. Neither could differentiate between the regular one and the muffin made with Beyond Eggs. That experience sold Gates, a fan of sustainably produced foods. He is now an investor.
Other major financial players are also betting big on Hampton Creek Foods. Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla’s venture capital fund has sunk a cool $3 million into the company. PayPal’s Peter Thiel is another backer. The handwriting is clearly on the wall — a shift away from animal-based foods is happening, and these major investors know it.
The egg industry is worried enough about Beyond Eggs that it reportedly is buying Google ads that will show up when you search for terms that match Hampton Creek Foods, its products or possibly even its senior employees. Scared much, egg guys? Maybe you should be.
The future is plant-based, if we are to have any shot at being able to feed everyone. Let’s hope enough people realize it in time.
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