New Harvest should be a Top Charity consideration for effective animal activists

Plant-based and cultured animal product creation are frequently discussed by many animal activists as being game-changing developments with beneficial effects for animals far beyond what other activist strategies have achieved to date. Because I believe this, I briefly say why I’m happy Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE) selected The Good Food Institute (GFI) as a Top Charity, and then say why I think effective animal activists (ACE included) should consider New Harvest a Top Charity.

There’s a good case for making The Good Food Institute a Top Charity recommendation

I was excited to see that Animal Charity Evaluators recently named The Good Food Institute a Top Charity, because developing high quality, reasonably priced, and widely available animal product alternatives both seems within reach, like something GFI can help a lot with, and because doing so has the potential to prevent an amount of animal suffering unparalleled by other activist efforts to date.

The Good Food Institute, in their less than a year of existence, has put together a highly qualified team, gotten a huge amount of media coverage, raised a large amount of money, and done research and made connections laying the foundation for their goal of getting more animal product alternative companies to market. Though they haven’t yet helped launch a company, I’ve heard there are several in the pipeline. To my mind, ACE was wise not to require a stronger track record from GFI before naming them a Top Charity given what GFI has done and the massive potential for what they can achieve.

New Harvest should also get Top Charity status

It’s disappointing that ACE did not elevate New Harvest to Top Charity status when they updated their recommendations this year. Rather, New Harvest remains a Stand Out, and it’s not clear why, because ACE hasn’t explained their reasoning publicly. To my mind, the case for New Harvest (link information is old) is much like the case for GFI, except that the two organizations have different (though complementary) strategies and New Harvest has an already established and growing track record, especially when considered in light of the information we have today. We effective animal activists should consider New Harvest a Top Charity.

Despite New Harvest’s small (though increasing) budget, they’ve also:

  • gotten great publicity and increased interest in cultured animal products
  • helped to connect and coordinate the small and separated set of researchers and entrepreneurs in the field (previously I wrote about my take that the community is fragile, and this still seems mostly to be the case)
  • helped to launch a few now VC-backed companies
  • created a program to fund students researching cultured meat in particular
  • and have funded foundational, open research for others to build on

Their accomplishments and breadth of activity can be seen in their project portfolio, granting overview, and 2016 year-in-review.

A particular example of New Harvest’s contribution: Funding Dr. Paul Mozdziak’s work

New Harvest provided a grant to Dr. Paul Mozdziak of NCSU for “foundational cultured avian tissue research project for the purpose of creating chicken and turkey meat without animals.” It goes without saying what a difference cultured chicken could make.

The following, from a November article in the MIT Technology Review on Dr. Paul Mozdziak’s work, illustrates the importance of New Harvest’s grant:

Until recently, Mozdziak says, no one wanted to fund his ideas for mass producing turkey meat without turkeys. But earlier this year, New Harvest gave Mozdziak a $118,800 grant, which has allowed him to create supplies of cells that other researchers can use by request. In November, he agreed to send some to biomedical engineer David Kaplan at Tufts University.

New Harvest quotes Dr. Mozdziak in their write-up about the work their grant covers:

I have been cultivating turkey satellite cells since 1993. I arguably have more first hand experience than anyone else in the world cultivating avian muscle cells. I routinely teach an animal cell culture class (where I teach avian muscle cell culture), and there is always someone in my lab cultivating muscle cells.

I have been thinking about the problem [of cultured meat] for a very long time, and I have engaged engineering professors at NCSU to discuss scaffolds; the issue is that USDA competitive grants are not going to fund in vitro meat production since they only fund mechanistic hypothesis driven research, and the poultry industry at this point is not interested in funding research on biomanufactured meat. The only place that would even consider funding the work is New Harvest.

I have wanted to do this project for almost 20 years. I am very excited about the possibilities.

Without New Harvest, it’s not clear that Dr. Mozdziak would have begun this work now or any time soon, and the work is now receiving substantial media attention.

From an outsider’s perspective, it seems like New Harvest is stumbling on such opportunities with great regularity. New Harvest’s contribution to the advancement of cultured animal products by identifying interested researchers and providing funding seems pivotal.

Conclusion

It’s based on the above that I consider New Harvest to be a Top Charity. I’m happy that GFI is getting Top Charity recognition given their potential. Those interested in effective animal advocacy should likewise consider New Harvest a Top Charity given New Harvest’s substantial track record and continuing potential to accelerate cultured animal product development.