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The Skyrocketing Business of Vegan Food Aims to Save the World

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.

Its 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.

Beyond Meat is an impressively realistic faux meat. Photo credit: Beyond Meat

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.”

Hampton Creek Farms hopes to make the egg unnecessary. Photo credit: Thinkstock

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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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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175 comments

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9:07PM PDT on Jun 11, 2014

Vegan food will be more popular when it a. tastes better and b. is more competitive in terms of price with regular food.

3:42AM PDT on Mar 21, 2014

"Hampton Creek Foods wants to revolutionize the egg industry by making eggs unnecessary."

The only customers that will go for that one are people that are allergic to eggs or vegans who don't eat eggs in the first place.

Chickens are going to still lay eggs and as long as they are not factory farmed, many people are still going to eat them. Pass the scrambled eggs. The real one, not the let's pretend that they are eggs one.

11:12PM PST on Feb 1, 2014

Past Member stated: “This is great news in my book. :P The future is vegan. Veganism is the future. The sooner you realize that, the better, for your own good. Animals will be liberated. Ignorants will die.”

So predictable, a song sung of Wrathful militant vegan outrage. You also said: …“You're one of those ignorants and I offended you? Sorry... not. And if/when you reply to me with your pathetic insults, don't expect me to reply or even read it, because I really don't follow any thread after I post my comment in it. And if I come back here by any chance (very improbable) and see your comment, I won't reply because I'd rather not step to your low level. Until you open your eyes and stop being an ignorant fool, have a nice day! ;)”

11:11PM PST on Feb 1, 2014

Past Member, if you refrain from reading the comments of others, it hardly worries me. One of the hallmarks of some of the more zealous converts to any cause is to cover your eyes and ears in order not to hear the discourse of others with a different viewpoint. Some believe that any polite comment that opposes yours is ‘ignorant’ or ‘pathetic’ if it does not go along with your own doctrine and other people are seen as a waste of your time unless we are converts or willing to be. I read all comments and some of the more militant vegans are fairly predictable, especially the verbal taunts that whatever anyone else says is ‘ignorant,’ ‘foolish’ and in ‘need’ of your brand of ‘enlightenment.” Not buying that one when some vegans insist that that rest of the world eat only your way or ‘die.’ I hate to tell you this, but humans are also animals as well.

Agreed, Kim W about the misinformation that often flies around when there is a desire to convert others to a single-minded idea that the entire world must one day consist of solely vegans.

10:37PM PST on Feb 1, 2014

Beverly G stated: "There are too many ppl in the world , being greedy and wanting food and wanting every thing."

Agreed, the human population is at an all time high and there are even some that even believe that there should be a one child family policy globally (enforcing this in democracies is impossible, but certainly there are massive numbers of people). Of course, people are going to want food, it is fairly obvious that we are not going to survive as Breatharians.

Past Member hopes that in future that the only animals kept around are as pets. I am assuming that you are speaking of the discontinuation of having domesticated livestock such as cattle, pigs, chickens for both meat and dairy. Since there will never be a time when animals are never going to be part of the diet of many people in a diverse global population, that is unlikely to occur. Factory farm production on the other hand is not preferable compared to small farms raising animals with plenty of space, no antibiotics/growth hormones and natural foods.

10:33PM PST on Feb 1, 2014

"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."

More vegan wishful thinking. Since the largest cause of famine on the planet just happens to be drought, switching to a 100 percent plant-based diet is not going to change that. Also, other factors such as wars, poor infrastructure (which is often affected by war), nefarious political activity (food is used as a weapon against rebellious parts of a national population), corruption and the many other factors involved in not producing enough food for people. Certainly the huge expenditures on stockpiles of weapons for military uses take up a giant slice of the global pie. Some wish us to believe that if we just stopped eating meat (and using all other animal products) a brave new world will sprout around us and everything will be sweetness and light. The forests still will get razed for the production of palm oil for example and other plant-based mono-culture going on.



10:04PM PST on Feb 1, 2014

mitchell d,Chimpanzees most certainly do eat meat, it is a natural activity for Chimpanzees to hunt for meat. It makes up a very small proportion of their diet but they do eat it in a natural way, not all meat is tough and is actively hunted as witnessed by Jane Goodall:

"One of the first and most significant discoveries made by Jane Goodall was that chimpanzees hunt for and eat meat. During her first year in Gombe she observed a male chimpanzee, David Greybeard, an adult female and a juvenile eating what she realized was a young bush pig. Before this, scientists assumed chimpanzees only ate fruit and leaves.
On that first occasion, it was not clear whether the chimpanzees had caught and killed the prey, or merely come upon a carcass. A short time later, Goodall actually observed the hunting process when a group of chimpanzees attacked, killed and ate a red Colobus monkey that had climbed high into a tree. The hunters covered all available escape routes while one adolescent male crept after the prey and caught it. The other males then rushed up and seized parts of the carcass.

http://www.janegoodall.org/chimpanzees/tool-use-hunting-other-discoveries

9:18AM PST on Jan 11, 2014

My parents are both in their 90s, and in reasonable health, they both still drive. I cannot recall even one meal they have ever had without meat or dairy products. Anecdotal, yes, but they represent nearly all of the elderly I know of.

11:01AM PST on Jan 9, 2014

Michelle D. I believe the jury is still out on whether or not small amount of meat are good for humans. There is strong evidence that fish, for example, are a healthy addition to one's diet. Studies that demonstrate a negative correlation between meat consumption and health typically compare "meat-less" with "average" diets. It may very well be determined that neither of these is ideal.

As for the "need" to consume meat, do not get me wrong. I am not speaking in favor of meat, generally (most of which is farm-raised). I have, instead, pointed out the reduced environmental impacts of sustainable hunting and fishing in comparison to agriculture (of any sort). Because hunting and fishing eliminate the ruinous environmental consequences of agriculture, these should be maximized as means of acquiring food. Certainly, we do not "need" to hunt or fish (in the sense that options do exist), but with every meal that we obtain in this fashion we reduce the permanent destruction of habitat that invariably results from agriculture. In other words, our "need" to hunt and fish is as great as our "need" to protect our environment and the animal species that inhabit wild lands. I would suggest that this need is very great, indeed.

10:59AM PST on Jan 9, 2014

I no one shot the millions of non-indigenous feral hogs that colonized the south, there would be a lot fewer farmers and a lot less veggies and peanuts to eat.

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