Diseases that pass from animals to humans are called zoonoses. The deadly coronavirus pandemic is one and it joins a long list, including influenza (pigs); tuberculosis (cattle) and chickenpox (chickens) that originate in this way. It is the zoonotic route that is responsible for the majority of infectious diseases.
It no longer has to be this way though, innovation and climate-friendly meat alternatives – where no animal dies – offer a different future. Bruce Friedrich, executive director of the Good Food Institute (GFI), summed it up well in an article for Innovators Magazine when he said: we don’t need to replace meat. We need to reimagine meat.
Besides being a source of disease, meat is also a major contributor to the climate crisis. Bruce points to international think-tank Chatham House, which reported governments ‘will be unsuccessful in holding climate change to less than 2 degrees Celsius by 2050 unless their populations consume less meat’.
“Given what is at stake, governments should back the development of plant-based and cultivated meat, as these technologies are obvious solutions to huge and imperative global problems,” Bruce said.
For some, shifting to plant-based meats is an easy thing to do. But globally there are obvious barriers to progress. Factors like government policy, investment, employment, supply systems and long-held cultural norms all play their part. It would be naive to tout meatless products as a silver bullet solution deliverable overnight. But Coronavirus must refocus priorities. Because what many are realising is that you are only as strong as your weakest habit.
If not now, when?
In 2018, a special report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made clear transformational changes are needed at all levels of society, across every country, to stem apocalyptic temperature increases. That means everyone embracing and mainstreaming a whole new way of life as soon as possible.
When the pandemic pause button switches to play again, the story of humankind mustn’t pick up where it left of but begin a new and sustainable chapter. The meatless revolution is central to this, and it is already well underway.
Impossible Foods is one of a host of innovative companies changing the future of food. Earlier this year, the plant-based food headliner announced it had secured $500 million in new funding, taking its running total since launch to $1.3 billion. The money is going to help the company expand in Asia and meet growing demand worldwide.
“Our mission is to replace the world’s most destructive technology — the use of animals in food production — by 2035,” said Dr. Patrick O. Brown, M.D., Ph.D., founder and CEO of Impossible Foods. “To do that, we need to double production every year, on average, for 15 years and double down on research and innovation. The market has its ups and downs, but the global demand for food is always there, and the urgency of our mission only grows. Our investors not only believe in our mission, but they also recognise an extraordinary opportunity to invest in the platform that will transform the global food system.”
Demand is growing, and even the most ardent meat eaters are being persuaded.
“The Impossible Burger is so good that it’s first public champion was David Chang, who had previously removed all vegetarian entrées from the menus of all of his restaurants. If you can win over David Chang with plants, you can win over anyone,” said Bruce.
The direction of travel is clear. What is needed now is a level of sensitivity, clear communication and policies that can speed it up. The final word here goes to Bruce Friedrich.
“Yes, we face many pressing global threats today, but one powerful and simple solution is staring us right in the face: plant-based and cultivated meat. Everyone from individual scientists and investors to the world’s governments can and should be a part of reimagining meat and building a better future for us and future generations.”