I Just Ate Meat For The First Time In 20 Years
Yesterday I ate meat for the first time in 20 years and I couldn’t be happier. Let me explain why.
Humans have a long history with meat. Nearly 10,000 years ago, homo sapiens began domesticating animals for meat, milk, and hides. While the scale and sophistication of the effort has grown greatly since our ancestors in Mesopotamia began domesticating goats, the basic formula hasn’t changed all that much. We selectively breed animals with traits we want, feed them for months to years, and then slaughter them to make beef, pork, chicken, turkey, gelatin, and leather, sometimes after extracting their breastmilk for a time. Functionally, we’re using animals as technology to turn plant inputs into outputs that we like to eat, drink, or wear.
The problem is that meat produced through animal agriculture is terrible for the environment (contributing more to greenhouse emissions than all cars, trucks, and planes combined) and raises serious animal welfare concerns. It’s why I decided to stop eating it when I was 12 and never took it back up — not because I don’t like the taste of meat (I do!) but because of the extremely problematic way meat is made.
This is all about to change.
In the past couple years, a new crop of startups has fundamentally reimagined how we make food. Instead of domesticating animals, these startups are domesticating cells directly. Instead of animal farms, they have cell farms.
Take beef as an example. For the purpose of meat production, a cow can be thought of as a biological machine, inside which certain processes happen that produce something we like to eat. Specifically, muscle cells and fat cells are dividing and multiplying inside the cow’s body, producing tissue that, after slaughter, is turned into beef.
What if we could bring about that same process of cell division, but outside of the cow? That’s exactly what Silicon Valley based Memphis Meats is working on. Their technology allows them to produce real beef, without the need to raise and slaughter a cow, by allowing cells to multiply in bioreactors.
This isn’t science fiction. This isn’t years away. Memphis Meats is making their clean meat today. And as of yesterday, I can report that it is delicious.
Due to being an early investor through my fund Fifty Years, I was lucky to be invited to a tasting event held in San Francisco, in the same kitchen frequently used by Julia Child. They cooked up a two course meal of Southern Fried Chicken and Duck à l’orange using their clean meat.
For the first time ever, with the Wall Street Journal looking on, they cooked up and showed off real chicken pieces (not ground meat!) and real duck. Though the taste and texture was identical to conventional meat, their clean meat wasn’t harvested from the carcasses of slaughtered animals.
With studies showing clean meat could potentially be produced with 96% less greenhouse gas emissions, 45% less energy, 99% less land use, and 96% less water use than meat made through animal agriculture, there’s a lot to be excited about.
So, after 20 years of not eating meat, yesterday I ate fried chicken and roast duck and couldn’t be happier.
“We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.”
— Winston Churchill, Fifty Years Hence (1931)