Curt AlbrIght is one of the key leaders highlighted in my new book Shine: Ignite Your Inner Game to Lead Consciously at Work and in the World. He has over 30 years of experience in banking, investment banking, capital markets and corporate finance, and in 2011, Curt became keenly aware of the atrocities facing our planet and its inhabitants stemming from the dysfunctional food system.
When I first spoke to Curt, he shared with me some of his spiritual awakening from investment banker to investing in plant based foods, fermentation companies and the cultivated meat technology space, and how he completely shifted his diet, his entire life, to be in service of a more regenerative food system that is in harmony with the planet. And he also shared his love of animals and I was so touched by his story and his commitment to people on the planet that I could not help but want to have him on the SHINE podcast to share more.
On this podcast interview, Curt and I speak about the problems with animal agriculture, the fishing industry and the evolution of cultivated meat and plant based food products. We talk about what cultivated meat is and why it is the wave of the future, to feed our growing population in a way that nourishes life.
If you have been interested and up leveling your inner game of well being, how to be mindful of how you consume and eat in a way that supports the flourishing of the planet and your body, this interview is for you.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
Connect with SHINE
“I want to to have as great an effect for the good as I had for the bad before and get in the middle of this thing while I am still walking the earth ” — Curt Albright
“I believe the oceans are the lungs of the earth and that the oceans die, we die.” — Curt Albright
“Raising awareness in individuals can create people who can do unbelievable things… but not so much as to move the needle by getting more human capital to do the next right thing, which is getting animals off of our plate.” — Curt Albright
“How we’re going to get food onto our plates is probably the biggest problem when I think about everything that we’re facing from climate change to social justice issues. That is at the center of it all.” — Carley Hauck
“We’re not trying to point fingers in the plant based food industry, we’re trying to bring a solution as quick as we can.” — Curt Albright
“What I want to do is inspire other people to feel the goodness that comes from living an authentic lifestyle.” — Curt Albright
Carley Hauck 00:01
Hi, this is Carley Hauck and welcome to another episode of the shine podcast. This podcast is all about the intersection of three things, conscious, inclusive leadership, the recipe for high performing teams and awareness practices. I will be facilitating three amazing interviews a month. Before I tell you about our topic today, if you can go over to Apple podcasts, hit the subscribe button, and if you love this episode, which I’m sure you will, please write a positive review, share it on your social media channel, or share it with some of your favorite people. It helps so much. Thank you.
Our topic for today is the future of cultivated meat is here with Curt Albright. Before I introduce Curt, I wanted to share a little context for the origin of the SHINE podcast, and how that directly relates to this topic. I began doing research for my new book, Shine: Ignite Your Inner Game to Lead Consciously at Work and in the World four years ago. And as part of the research, I was interviewing thought leaders, climate scientists, emerging leaders, business leaders that were really focusing on social justice, environmental responsibility, and I chose nine leaders and businesses that are really rocking it for people and planet. And out of those nine, there were three that I really focused on in the book that are all part of this plant based, cultivated meat technology, future of food movement. And it’s been so incredible to watch where these leaders started in the journey as I was writing the book to where they are now and the momentum that they have gained, like Josh Tetrick of Eat Just and David Young of Omni Foods and Green Monday and Green Common. And Sheryl O’Laughlin, who was still the CEO of REBLL and now she’s gone into so many other incredible different roles and leading the change and wonderful ways.
And Curt, he is in this space as well. He is the founder managing member at Clear Current Capital since September 2017. From 1991 until 2017, Curt was Senior VP and partner to a national investment banking firm located in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has over 30 years of experience in banking, investment banking, capital markets and corporate finance. In 2011, Curt became keenly aware of the atrocities facing our planet and its inhabitants stemming from the dysfunctional food system. Clear current capital’s targeted impact mission thesis is his life’s work.
When I first spoke to Curt, he shared with me some of his spiritual awakening from investment banker to investing in plant based foods, fermentation companies and the cultivated meat technology space. And how he completely shifted his diet, his entire life, to be in service of a more regenerative food system that is in harmony with the planet. And he also shared his love of animals and I was so touched by his story and his commitment to people on the planet that I could not help but want to have him on the SHINE podcast to share more.
Carley Hauck 04:17
So in this interview, we talk about the problems with animal agriculture, the fishing industry, and the evolution of the cultivated meat and plant based food industry, which is amazing. We talk about the problems with animal agriculture, the fishing industry and the evolution of cultivated meat and plant based food products. We talk about what cultivated meat is and why it is the wave of the future, to feed our growing population in a way that nourishes life.
If you have been interested and up leveling your inner game of well being, how to be mindful of how you consume and eat in a way that supports the flourishing of the planet and your body, this interview is for you.
Carley Hauck 05:05
Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining the SHINE podcast. I’m here with my new friend, Curt Albright. Curt, thank you so much for being here.
Thank you so much for the invitation.
And just tell our listeners, where are you zooming in from today?
Sure. So I’m just south of Vero Beach, Florida, on the east coast of Florida. Great. Thank you. And so one of the first questions that I usually always ask folks, because this is a podcast on conscious and inclusive leadership. What does conscious inclusive leadership mean to you?
Curt Albright 05:43
Well, conscious and inclusive leadership means to me, I think the word that really comes to mind is mindfulness. It’s just being self aware enough to know that, you know, I’m a work in progress, and always will be. And now that I’ve, I’m in a position where I’ve founded a venture capital firm, you know, I’ve got responsibilities today that I didn’t have before. So in today’s world, I face one issue at a time, and it excites me to think that I can help balance a world that could use some extra balance these days. Hmm.
Carley Hauck 06:25
So I heard taking one thing at a time, and trying to bring more balance to the world. But that also means you have to be balanced on the inside that on the outside, right, I can’t give what I don’t have. And so you are managing partner at Clear Current Capital. And that is investing in plant based food fermentation companies and cultivated meat technology companies at more of the early stage of business, is that correct?
Curt Albright 07:05
Yep, you got it. I was just gonna say, you know, that was a mindful decision on my part that I didn’t see coming, you know, not two years previous to making that decision. And I ended a 26 year career in investment banking to start Clear, Current Capital. And the reason that I did that was because I had become keenly aware of the atrocities that were happening in our food system. And I saw this as being the most core way to deal to bring bring a solution to most of the problems that speak deeply to me.
Carley Hauck 07:38
Yeah, so the reason that I wanted to invite you on to the podcast is, after one of the conversations we had recently, you told me about this big shift that happened for you. And I’d love to hear more how you turned vegan, how you became, you know, just very impacted by the suffering that was happening to animals, wherever you’d like to start.
It was a beautiful story.
Curt Albright 08:08
There’s a lot there. Um, you know, I don’t know where to start. It was it’s been a heck of a journey and a heck of a ride. And it was again, it was nothing that I signed up for it was because I had a lot of speed bumps in life that I didn’t have answers for, you know, and I was brought up in sports in a very different lifestyle than what I had today. And, and I was a finance major when right into banking, I was in private banking, in DC area where I grew up and went into the investment banking world, all my customers were banks, and it was a very money oriented world, which I had parts of me that like that a lot. And I just didn’t know how to balance myself and my life got out of control from every aspect.
And you know, at the end, which happened to me, I got a well, I’ll give you one I didn’t share with you before I was I was diagnosed in the year 2000 as a type one diabetic. That was the first thing that happened to me. And I believe that was due to my lifestyle. I was 38 years old, 37 years old. And so to get juvenile diabetes doesn’t generally happen that late in life, but it was it was to me it was a God wink with what I know now. And I didn’t do really much of any changing it took me five or six years of more pain. And in my very dysfunctional lifestyle to realize my life was not getting better. I had all the toys and that’s what I thought was the big goal in life was he has been a sign of success. Yeah, that’s it. I mean, at the big house and cars and you name it and a successful career and I was completely unhappy inside. And it just didn’t make any sense to me on how I was taught to be happy to think in my head growing up and so I did some a bunch of therapy work.
My marriage was in a shambles. And that’s what started it. And it ended up becoming a realization to me that I didn’t know how to live healthy I just never I because I’d never done it before. And and that’s what got me into recovery, which I got into in November of 2006. And that so that transferring from therapy to save my marriage to doing spiritual work on myself to find out why am I not happy to getting into recovery, around alcohol abuse?
It all started to tie together and it all started to make sense. And my self awareness just started to raise up and I realized that I was unhealthy because every aspect of my life was unhealthy. And so what am I going to do about it? Well, I got in the middle of the healthy lifestyle and just started looking for ways to be of service and, and one of the first things was I got introduced to Andrew Harvey, which I mentioned before and right. And, and his, his help to me was just, it was so core, I mean, I don’t remember the exact meeting place, but but it was just one sentence.
He said, meditate over what breaks your heart, the greatest and I kept thinking myself, I’m waiting for the rest of it. No, that was it. And so so that’s what I did is I just asked myself, What breaks my heart the greatest and I kind of meditated over that. And he said, you know, the other thing that can be helpful is if you see an ad on TV, what do you have to turn your eyes away from because you get too emotional. And it was easy. That was easy. For me it was animal suffering.
And so that’s what started it for me and and, and so you know, I I cleaned up my, my lifestyle, I looked for ways to be of service to others and sponsored a bunch of men in recovery and still do and then started to look for ways to help animals and by bought 11 acres and donated it to a rescue in Charlotte where I was living. And what happened was, there was a mercy for animals undercover investigation at a Butterball factory in, I think it was Statesville, North Carolina and the director from the animal rescue was getting called in to help out with this undercover investigation rescue and it was absolutely horrific. And so that’s what tied me into the food industry.
So again, it’s these organic things that just got placed right in front of me. And and so when I researched it, and looked, I was like, okay, the reason why the rescue wasn’t working out so well was because I was on the wrong end of the business. It’s they do great work, they rescued a couple 1000 animals every year, but I wanted to to have as great an effect for the good as I had for the bad before and get in the middle of this thing while I was still walking the earth and and so I researched mercy for animals that got me into some of the nonprofits and and I was just blown away by the numbers. I mean, I’m a numbers guy and you know, seeing that there were 30 billion animals that were suffering and slaughtered every year on the face of the earth. And you know, what just the animal husbandry part of our food system does to the planet itself. It just, I was blown away.
And I knew that the animal farmed animal industry was not anything that I cared to know too much about. I was just afraid of my own emotions. That game was over. And and so I watched
you know, movies and read books and just got in the middle of what was the truth was and what was going on and then began to look for ways to get in the middle of the the food industry.
Curt Albright 13:43
And so the the the video in 2012 by Phil Wollen was was another one that I watched the 10 minute video called Removing Animals From Your Plate, and I realized I wasn’t doing enough on my own to support removing animals from your plate. That’s what you said. I believe. I believe that’s the title of it. If you just Google Philip Wallen speech, it’ll come up.
Carley Hauck 14:12
Yeah, you mentioned it. I was saying it again for our listeners, because we’ll be able to put a link to it in the show notes. Yeah, he was Citibank Australia. So having another banker talk about his emotions and feelings kind of validated what I was going through and gave me permission to dig deeper into the atrocities that were that is or animal based food system and, and so that got me looking for more ways to support so I ended up switching gears and and supporting a number in a philanthropic way, a number of effective nonprofits, like Mercy for Animals, like the Humane League. We opened up an office for the Humane League in Charlotte in 2013.
And so you know, it just the path just kept going and I just kept feeling more and more centered. I was selling things I was getting rid of my stuff I was trying to live smaller, you know, I’d never met, you know, other guys that live that way and were authentic before I met them from the nonprofit work and one of them was Bruce Friedrich who ended up founding the Good Food Institute. And, and Bruce was just super kind to me. And he lives in DC, it’s where I grew up. And so, you know, he kind of introduced me around to the who’s who are the effective workers that were doing this greater good work and, and I again, never met people like that before, and I wanted more of it.
And so when he started the Good Food Institute, you know, having the business angle to it, that was extremely attractive to me and, and watching them explode, watching their effects on the plant based food market in general in this country. I wanted to help and so not just try to make a bunch of money and give it away. And so we met in Atlanta. And that’s where the idea came from, to start clear, current capital.
Carley Hauck 16:05
Wonderful, wonderful, beautiful story. And how long have you been a vegan?
Curt Albright 16:11
I think I officially turned to raise the flag in May of 2012. And, you know, just to kind of put a little extra in on that. At that time. I weighed 250 pounds. And so I had all kinds of health issues.
What one of the things that I forgot to mention before was I met a doctor at right around that time, I had sleep apnea problems and this doctor, the first time that I met him, we had this heart to heart conversation, and I just blew me away to realize that this is the first time I met this doctor.
And he said to me, Listen, I want you to read this book, called, I wrote it down. I didn’t forget Eat to Live Dr. Joel Fuhrman. And he said, I want you to read this book, because it was written by another doctor, I read it and it changed my life. And it just, it just floored me to have a doctor share something that heartfelt with me the first time I met him, and that was another one of those kind of God winks to me that, you know, I’d bought the book, I read it, and there was all kinds of accolades around losing weight, if you don’t think Dr. Furman mentioned the word vegan in there, it’s all about eating healthy.
And so I didn’t believe it could work for me because I thought I was still different. And what I did is I started eating exactly like the book told me to eat and not only did I lose the weight, but I gained an energy and I just felt better and just everything, you know, again, it just started all coming together. So it’s, it’s been, there’s been a lot of those on my journey.
Carley Hauck 17:55
I just really love the journey that you’ve been on, like listening to this, this transformation and, and really being aware of the signs, so to speak, and opportunities of what to follow and, and what I’m hearing, and it’s interesting that your your business is called Clear Current Capital, but it’s almost like you’re flowing with what actually is calling to you what what is making your heart, you know, feel most alive, which is, which is doing good, which is being part of the solution to these atrocities that the food agriculture system has developed. I mean, not only for animals, but for what’s happening to our planet, and what’s happening to the potential of our, of our humanity and and our survival.
Curt Albright 18:52
Really. Absolutely. No, no, no, I love your analogy with the name because that was one of the feelings that I did have when we were naming the firm. In an early on, I was told that you know, I was living my life trying to force my will or force my way against the current and I could identify with that totally back everything was a battle and it was it was horrible. And once I let go and just, you know, let go the outcomes is just did the next right thing and started looking at ways to truly be of service and mean it.
Yeah, I mean, today, it’s just it’s got the flow. I mean, my life is nothing like I ever imagined it would be and and nor could I have ever imagined I’d be as happy with a different definition of what happy is to what it means to me today. Because today, it’s really about, you know, self awareness and living a life of purpose. I can assure you that was not even on my radar screen 20 years ago.
Carley Hauck 19:57
Lovely well, you know, I, I wanted to highlight you a lot in this interview, but I can really relate to that. And I shared with you the book that I’ve been, you know, writing for the last four years. But one of the impetus for that book was really the crisis that I see us. And as a humanity, I mean, I believe the planet is going to survive. But I don’t know if we are based on our behaviors based on how we’re treating each other, treating animals treating the planet.
And I went to a conference at Stanford, about a year or two after I had started teaching there, and it was called Connect the Dots. And it was some of the world’s you know, most distinguished climate scientists all coming together for one day. And they were sharing the research and what was at stake. And I thought that I knew the research, I thought I’d been tracking climate change science. And I was just blown away by how little time we have left.
And then very shortly after attending that conference, I was spending a day with my nephew, who at the time was four, who’s now 10. And he looked at me, and he said, Aunty Carley, will you help me save the oceans? And I, I mean, I still get kind of tears just thinking about it, because I’m still in that fight. You know, I’m still standing for that. And I’m not sure if we’re going to be able to save the ocean. And this, this will come back to our conversation. But I knew that if I said yes to him, I had to really say yes.
And as a little girl, I was very passionate about marine life, whales, dolphins, I went out of my way, many times to write letters to dictators of Japan, when I was seven or eight, you know, asking them to stop killing the whales, I was saving sea turtles, things like that. So I was also a very concerned child around this issue, and to have him say it to me.
So I started writing my book. And I really wanted to highlight companies and leaders who were very committed to creating a sustainable future. And, and I know neither of us really like that word, because it can be, you know, it can have different connotations, but a company that is really committed to social justice, environmental responsibility. And so some of the leaders that I highlighted in that book, are all part of this plant based cultivated me, you know, Business Technology, like David Young, like Josh Tetrick of East Just, Cheryl O’Laughlin, from REBLL.
And so that was kind of one of the ways that I met you, because it’s an area that I also feel really passionate about. And so I wanted to just speak to why this is so important, and just some of the, the stats. So I believe these are pretty current. But what I found was that about 65% of Americans are lactose intolerant, and even more so in Asia. So as we can see, you know, in the plant based space, non dairy milks are having quite a rise. Oatly, I believe, had an IPO not too long ago. But we’re, we’re seeing lots of products like dyad, cheese, and Mykonos, and whatnot. And then we’re also seeing that meat and dairy consumption is declining in Europe, and in the US. But it’s on the rise in China and India. And I think that we need to really bring more awareness education around the clean, or the cultivated meat technologies, and why it’s so important that we’re eating more plant based, that we’re not eating animals.
And so, and one of the conversations that you and I recently had, you were saying to me that you really believe that the chicken and fish industry is one of the most devastating ones can you speak more to what you know about that?
Curt Albright 24:23
Yeah. And, and I totally agree with what you said, on all fronts, especially when it comes to the oceans. Because, you know, I believe the oceans are the lungs of the earth and that the oceans die, we die. Right and, and, you know, I mean, there was a team of scientists, I don’t remember how many years ago they did their study, but it was super in depth independent study, and basically what they came away with that it was the year 2048. If we continue to fish and and kill sea creatures at the level that we’re doing it right now, the oceans will be dead by 2048. So we’re literally in a race with time.
And you know, that’s from the mind from the heart. For me, it’s all about animal suffering, right? And so I concentrate on numbers. And, you know, again, when you look at how many chickens does it take to equal the weight of a pig, you know how much meat comes from a chicken versus a pig, how much? How many chickens to take equal one cow. It’s, it’s a huge multiplier. And so the amount of suffering and I don’t know if you’ve seen what they put chickens through to slaughter them, but it’s just it’s, it’s unbelievable. I mean, anyone could even come up with the contraptions that they use.
And what’s going on now is is the, you know, the big meat industry is trying to get oversight and regulations further and further away from the industry because the animals don’t have a voice. And so it’s making the slaughter lines move faster. It’s making the shackles buckle quicker. I mean, it’s just, it’s just, it’s insanity.
And we know it causes cancer in human beings. So, so of eating animals that are dirty to begin with, because of their living conditions. And that’s before you get to the growth hormones and the and the antibiotics that they have to pump into them. It’s just mind boggling the amount of solution that comes from getting them out of the food industry. And that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing.
On the ocean side, what really gets to me is, is you’ve got no oversight once again. And as we’ve witnessed over the past many years, when there’s no oversight business tends to not do the right thing. Not big business. And because it’s so profit driven, and and there’s not that many mindfully operated huge businesses and especially without oversight. And you know, you’ve got dumping issue, you’ve got human trafficking issues, we’ve got, you know, slave labor, it’s all in the seafood industry. And that’s before you get to the mile wide net. And that what the mile wide nets will do is they’ll catch if thereafter, say bluefin tuna, they’ll catch the bluefin tuna or whatever’s left of them, but they’re also gonna catch everything else. Right. So the bycatch could be eight to 12 pounds of bycatch, of whale everything. And then, and then it’s just they just kill them, their entire ecosystem, which is barely in balance is just getting annihilated because they’re going after one particular species.
Right. So it’s, it’s, I see this and, you know, again, my process was not fast, especially living through it. And but I would never, I mean, I’m so grateful for going through it because it was painful. But it also taught me that we can’t get there. In my mind, we can’t get there quick enough, by trying to raise awareness.
Now, raising awareness in individuals can create people who can do unbelievable things. So I think that the messaging and getting it out is just vitally important, but not so much to move the needle, as it is to get more human capital into doing the next right thing, which is getting them off of our plate.
Carley Hauck 28:07
Right. And I wanted to just bring another statistic, and this actually came from Seaspiracy the movie, which I highly recommend. And in fact, Curt recommended to me and I hadn’t watched it yet. And real Netflix, yeah, losing the sea floor, which is what happens from the trolling. And the nets from the fishing industry is basically you know, estimated that it’s wiping out 3.9 billion acres a year of seafloor, deforestation. So that’s killing everything in the ocean.
And again, like you said, if we, if we don’t have the vitality of the ocean, we won’t survive. We’re 70% water. And when we’re killing these big animals like dolphins and whales, when they come up to the surface, they’re releasing phytoplankton, which helps actually nurture the rest of the ocean. So it’s just and so many of these larger animals are dying, because they’re full of plastic. They’re full of fishing nets. And it’s, there’s, there’s just some really big problems that we need to solve.
But I agree with you that the food agriculture system, and how we are designing how we’re going to get food onto our plates is probably the biggest problem when I think about everything that we’re facing from climate change to social justice issues. That is at the center of it all.
Curt Albright 29:45
And again, it gets worse the more you’re open to doing your own research because like I remember, years ago, hearing years before I got involved, hearing about the Amazon rainforest, and it made no sense to me that the cattle industry had anything to do with it. The cattle industry has everything to do with it. And and now it’s out in the open if you just Google it, but but it’s just the the land clearing that’s going on, and the devastation that’s being done to this planet to, for animal agriculture is is crazy. And again, it’s, it’s, it’s profitable at the expense of our planet. And it does not have to be that way.
And so that’s what you know, that’s what I’m excited about is, you know, we’re not trying to point fingers in the plant based food industry, we’re trying to bring a solution as quick as we can, because and the solution is not Well, number one, it’s a math game. I mean, we’re at 7 billion people ish now. And they’re saying by 2050, will be a 10 and change.
We can’t even feed 7 billion that we have on the planet right now in this dysfunctional industry. So how are we going to handle 10? There is not enough land, there is nothing sustainable about animal agriculture, you cannot utilize it and feed the number of people that we have today, or will be here in 2050.
And so the solution that’s what I love about the cultivated meat industry, is the efficiencies that come from plant based food, which was our first to market because it was easier to bring that quickly at price points. The next really meaningful industry is going to be cultivated meat, and what can be done in those biomass reactors by you know, cultivating meat cells that are identical to animals, biologically, and and can be done vertically, and be placed right next to where the demand is, for me is it’s mind boggling. And so I’m very hopeful that that is going to happen.
And I mean, the you know, we work closely with BlueNalu from from the beginning, and to see the PhDs that they’ve been able to hire and what they are putting together as quickly as they are it’s been it gives me hope. And well, they don’t knowBlueNalu.
Can you share a little bit more for our listeners?
Sure, BlueNalu is a is a cultivated meat but focused on seafood, sea creatures.
startup company was founded, I guess it was founded in 2017. And so we were involved with them from the beginning, thanks to friends, and other VCs that we’re aligned with that helped me in forming clear current capital, as well as the Good Food Institute. And Lou Cooperhouse is their CEO and founder. And Lou has done an amazing job of putting together their team, putting together their platform, their lab work and attracting capital from literally all around the world.
You know, because what’s happened in the tuna industry, what’s happened in the seafood industry is we’re we’ve fished it to the point now where there are you can’t plan for a whether the animal that you’re looking for is even available, and be what the price is going to be. So their supply chain aside from the pandemic is horrific.
And so here’s here’s an opportunity to switch to something that’s that is grown from cells, now the cells are removed from a living creature, there, they’re then taken into a lab and grown by feeding the cells, allowing it to grow in a very clean environment, what you end up with is meat and muscle that is identical to the animal itself. And so it’s a much safer environment. It doesn’t have plastics involved with it, it doesn’t have micro plastics or or, you know, mercury within the fish because it’s never been in the water. It’s grown from cells.
And so, you know, there’s some concerns about, you know, whether consumers are going to accept cultivated meat, I would argue that, that it’s an opportunity for us to educate consumers on where their fish is coming from right now, because so much of what’s in the marketplace right now is not healthy in the least to eat this label.
Carley Hauck 34:08
Right? I was gonna share that even the even the products that say dolphin safe, there’s no real regulation, like how do we really know that? So I was sharing this with you the other day I went, or just before the interview started, I went to this local grocery store here in Bend called market of choice. And I went to one of the, you know, store clerks and I said, Do you sell Good Catch? Because I knew that based on their website, they were selling it and so we went to the you know, the seafood aisle where the canned tuna and whatnot is, and it was very low down on this shelf. It was kind of pushed back.
And for people that don’t know what good catches This is another alternative plant based seafood and it’s pretty much made out of chickpeas. Six legume. Yeah, it’s fabulous. Really great. But as I’m looking at all the other products around Good catch, it’s all saying dolphin safe, you know, reef friendly. But how do we really know that?
And I don’t, I don’t believe that that’s true, there’s going to be bycatch likely in anything, and what are their nets. And so these are the things that we as consumers really need to poke holes in, and be concerned about, and, and speak up against.
Curt Albright 35:35
And so talk about that, in the spirit see that it’s another one of those, you know, greenwashed kind of things that, you know, you’ve got companies that are making donations to politicians to look, the other way to put some label on that has absolutely no oversight or bearing it just, it just makes consumers feel good. Like they’re making the right choice. And it’s unfortunate for animals and for the planet.
Carley Hauck 36:00
And I think what’s so interesting about cultivated meat is that, you know, we’re trying to meet consumers where they are, right, like, people aren’t willing to let go of fish, if we were all really willing just to eat fruits and vegetables, and beans, we’d be fine. But these industries are being formed to meet consumers where they are in the sense that there’s been so much science around how a vegan and vegetarian diet is better for the planet, it’s better for our bodies, you know, gives more resources to everyone. But that doesn’t seem to be enough motivation to get people to change because we’re attached to certain patterns and habits.
And so cultivated meat, doesn’t need to be here. But it does, because people aren’t changing their habits, they’re not changing and choosing differently. And so tell me more
Curt Albright 36:55
What I was gonna say, that’s a great point, I completely agree. And that’s why we as a fund, I mean, we’re an impact fund first. And and the other side of that coin is we’re trying to provide above market returns to our investors, so that we attract more capital into this space, we only invest in scalable companies that are all protein that in other words, we’re not looking to feed the vegans or the vegetarians. You know, and again, I’m one, and I eat super healthy, but I’m not the 98% of the consumers that are out there. And if we’re going to say this planet, we got to get to the other 98 sooner than later.
And so we’re looking for to invest in scalable companies, startup companies that we can help grow and put on a solid foundation that are going to remove animals from the from the food system as quickly as possible. Yeah, so we’re looking for strong founders that can can deliver and can deliver centerplate solutions.
We’re not looking for vegetable patties, we’re looking for meat that’s that taste as good or better than the McDonald’s burger or the or the Whopper, there’s a reason why they sell a gazillion of them every day. It’s because they taste good. And they’re cheap. And so that’s what we’re trying to bring as a solution taste good, cheap and convenient.
Carley Hauck 38:13
And that’s also why we’re why we sell one of the most, you know, successful brands to start with was the impossible burger, because they recognize that’s where the market was. That’s where the demand was, how can we create a plant based product that tastes like a burger, and many people now have decided they liked the impossible burger better. And then Beyond Meat came out, and now has all these different products. And they’re a publicly traded company. And I think that’s really changed the landscape.
Curt Albright 38:50
I remember the day that that IPO hit for Beyond, and believe me, I was watching and and, and it just blew me away to see that stock trade up in premarket before it was physically trading in the market. And so the success of the IPO just, you know, burned a new path for the next IPO for for plant based food company. And that’s the awareness. That’s the consumer demand. I mean, it is there and it is real.
And so at this point, in our early stage, we’re trying to get enough product in the market to to feed the demand that’s already there. And that’s a gift from, you know, those nonprofits like Mercy for Animals and the Good Food Institute that have raised the awareness. It’s not always going to be that easy, and we’re going to have a lot of competitors, but at the same time, we’re trying to replace a trillion dollar meat industry. So we’re far from saturation. That’s not a concern of mine. The concern of mine is is trying to get these companies scaled up during a pandemic when we have distribution problems. Right and so there’s there’s you know, there’s there’s always going to be challenges and issues, but but but the pandemic is also doing is, is showing how, how many health issues there are in our supply chain from every angle as human beings, and how little we really know about how things are run. And everybody eats, you know, three, five times a day. So we were making conscious decisions. It has it has a byproduct on our own health. And it’s a byproduct to the health of our planet.
And so it’s, it’s, it’ll take time to raise the awareness. And but the good news is, is there’s a lot of companies that are that are coming up, I think the next couple of years are going to be really exciting. And the cultivated meatspace I think will, hopefully we’ll get an FDA USDA approval from from the US government within the next, you know, 12 months, I think we’ll start to see product coming, you know, within the next two years to shelves, and I believe that if it all comes together the way it looks like it could, it’ll happen quickly, because again, they can put massive amounts of food into the system quickly, just by by nature of the business model.
Carley Hauck 41:11
Thank you. So I think you probably understand this cycle better than I do. So when we look at Beyond Meat, you know, they started off as an early growth, early growth companies such as some of the ones that you’re investing in, and then they, you know, were able to get into this more commercial space where you can see their products, at Whole Foods, at regular grocery stores all over and just egg, which is from the Eat Just company, Josh Tetrick, and whatnot. He’s another one of the leaders that I highlight in the book, I’ve been so pleased to see Just Egg, that particular product in most grocery stores. And now there’s, there’s more products of Just Egg that are being offered.
And I feel curious, like, how do you go from that early growth, to really getting that type of reach? Because that’s ultimately what we want. Because the more choices we have, that are available to all these different types of socio economic status, they’re in the restaurants, they’re in fast food chains, like good catch now is at Long John Silver’s, which is awesome.
And I think, as impossible burger, I forgot what I mean, that’s been a lot of restaurants, but it’s also in fast food chains now as well, right?
Curt Albright 42:38
That’s correct. Yeah. It takes time and capital. I mean, those are those are the ingredients and, and and, you know, good founders and management and, and consumer demand as well, correct? Yeah. Oh, no question. I mean, it could be, it could be the best product known demand. But if it’s if the consumers don’t want it, or doesn’t fill some void, that’s not gonna fly off the shelves, and the velocity is what the the retail grocery stores are looking for. So if it’s not turning off the shelves, they weren’t invited back. Right. Right.
But it’s exciting to me back to Beyond Meat, I did want to mention that most people kind of have looked at the IPO and look at what’s happened in such a short period of time, but I believe they were founded in like, 2009. This was not this was an overnight sensation that wasn’t overnight. And so it takes time, it takes a lot of effort. It takes a lot of capital. And and that’s one of the reasons why I really look for the at those founders, you know, if you find a really strong founder, no matter what their background is that that’s heart LED, and really looking at this from a greater good perspective. That means a lot to me, especially coming from where I came from.
Carley Hauck 43:46
Definitely. So let’s pivot just a little bit. You know, I’ve heard you use the word that it’s an impact fund, how is that different than a regular fund? For our listeners?
Curt Albright 44:02
Sure. I mean, so we’re a venture capital fund. And we are we invest in early stage, which means that we’re typically investing we’ll invest in companies that are pre revenue, will invest in their seed to series A, where we look to be fully invested in a company by the time their Series B comes through. So these are not publicly traded, private private companies.
On the impact front, I mean, a typical venture capital fund is looking for returns only, I mean, that’s it. I mean, it’s it’s 100% about returns and and so venture capital funds where we get our money from his his investors. And so we have 26 investors in our fund one all aligned all unders you know, it’s it’s been a great journey from from that front, too. So 25 others and myself are in fund one. And, and there they have, you know, there’s a continuum. They all understand why we’re doing this. That’s their complete drive, return is it important to them others return is very important to them.
So that’s another reason why for me I want to take big picture I want to the impact is in the food industry and what our mission thesis is all around, you know, making food healthier and removing animals from the food system.
The returns I believe will come from who we’re trying to put in the marketplace. Those are scalable companies that are all protein oriented centerplate. So if if there, if we come up with three or four more beyond meats, we’ll do just fine by our investors, and those returns will get out into the public eye, and hopefully attract a whole lot more investment into this space. And it’s already happening. I mean, Oat Just IPO was super successful. We’re hearing rumblings that Eat Just and and Impossible, maybe doing IPOs, you know, fairly soon.
I mean, it’s, the successes are there, there’s also huge amounts of money that are waiting out the curve, private equity, late stage investors and venture capital, those are the really big funds, we’re a small fund or fund one was a little over 13 million, we’re targeting 50 million with our fund too. And we’re doing we’re trying to stay smaller, so that we can stay in that early stage where I feel like we’ll have the greatest impact in helping this entire space.
Carley Hauck 46:22
Right, and the more companies and the more founders that are getting into this space, that are successful, we’re able to really change the food system. Yep. And that’s the goal so that we can have a flourishing planet and our humanity is able to eat in a much more healthy way that’s in harmony with the earth. Yeah, I mean, the planet needs to heal. Totally, totally.
Curt Albright 46:53
So talk to me a little bit about some of the Good Food Institute, because I know that they’re really supporting this movement, nationally, and internationally. And your connection with Bruce?
Curt Albright 47:05
Yeah, so I mean, to me, Bruce was kind of like a mentor to me, coming from my unhealthy world into the world of animal welfare. And, and the effects of eating animals from the food system, both in its supply chain and the way it works in and on humans in the planet, I really hadn’t made a conscious decision to learn more about that, until that undercover investigation in North Carolina opened my eyes and, and Bruce was just extremely generous in showing me what was happening.
And when the Good Food Institute started, I believe they were 2016. So there was a lot going on in that little clump of years. And I’m just there I was, and boy was I lucky. And and so to watch them start, in my opinion, in the US Good Food Institute probably had the biggest influence on the successes of the plant based food industry as a whole.
I mean, we have momentum within this space. That’s the, you know, we’re 10x to growth numbers that are coming out of the food industry as a whole. And so it’s really exciting to see the demand, it’s really exciting to see the new supply, and they’re a nonprofit. So there’s not, you know, there’s there’s no concern about stealing information and that type of thing. They’re here to support, the greater good no matter what angle it’s coming from. So I see them as a hub of knowledge.
So individuals can go to GFI.org and feel good because they’re at a nonprofits website, which is there to supply information so that you can make decisions that are right for you and your family. then beyond that, it’s a corporate hub. So they help founders found companies, they help investors find those companies, they help investors give data and information into their nonprofit to help them make better choices as to you know, what’s the company that’s whitespace, that we need to get into the food system as quickly as possible to fill the void.
Those types of conversations are conversations that we have, often and and it’s very exciting to me now, what they’ve done over the past, you know, three years is gone completely International. And everything is done strategically. I mean, they’ve they’ve gone to markets that needed help, whether that’s building bridges to governments that want to actively help our industry because it was healthier for them. And that has happened, they’ve got boots on the ground in other countries that had volunteers with food connections that might be vital to changing the food system in a country like India, where there’s just massive amounts of people and change that needs to happen. So, you know, kudos to the team at GFI because they’re tackling something that is just absolutely meant and just doing a stellar job with it.
So they they have conferences, they have conferences in other countries, they have hubs set up to help people learn what’s going on and make those decisions consciously about what speaks to them the deepest so that they can plug in and be super effective in the work that they’re doing to help help make this happen.
Carley Hauck 50:18
That’s wonderful. Thank you so much, I think that’s going to be a really wonderful resource for people listening. And we’ll definitely leave a link in the show notes.
So what I like to do with each of these interviews is really bring awareness, education, inspiration, but then calls to action. So for people that are listening, that are saying, Wow, I had no idea, you know, how devastating the food agriculture system was on the planet, or my eyes have been opened even more, and I actually really want to make different choices and how I invest, but also how I consume, what might you suggest and we’ve already talked about some of them, some of these amazing products people can start to buy, but also, if they really wanted to put their money. And and, you know, what we choose to really pay for I think, is kind of a way that we’re voting so to speak, how might you suggest people and invest?
Curt Albright 51:24
Well, well, okay, there’s two different cuz my mind went right to the impact side of it. So yeah, investing, let me hit that. Second. First of all, the easiest thing that we can do as individuals is stop eating animals. I mean, it just is. And it’s healthier for us, the planet and for the animals, obviously. And one of my favorite sayings is, is love animals eat plants. And that’s how I live my life and boys, and it’s empowering. It’s empowering to live authentically with my own belief system. So So that’s my first invitation.
From an investment standpoint, there’s a lot of vehicles coming to market. I mean, there’s crowdfunding of companies that are happening that are extremely successful, there are rolling funds, which I really don’t understand the structure. I’m an old time banker, I have my kind of structured ways of looking at finance and so there’s new there’s new funds that are coming out that have rolling closes that you can access with lower dollar amounts, we are structured as a traditional venture capital fund so we have a 10 year final and it’s and so it’s a very planned out easy to kind of understand structure. However, it’s not highly regulated compared to my banking career was and so the federal government makes it mandatory that only accredited investors can invest in venture capital funds.
And so you can google accredited investor and it can give you the definition of that but but there will be more venture capital funds coming to market we’re raising capital for our second fund right now there are at least two or three other aligned funds that are being raised right now. There’s so there’s so much capital needed into this space.
And again, just do your homework. You know, make sure you know the founders, make sure you know, you’re aligned with the structure of what you’re investing into. And just again, realize that that you’re doing more than 98% of the humans walking the face of the earth if you’re making conscious decisions to not eat animals.
So I cut myself some slack in early vegan when I went vegan in the beginning to realize that I just didn’t know before and now I do and I’m doing something about it and yeah, I want to do more but I could burn myself out if I don’t paste this it’s it’s a marathon not a sprint but but I believe the answers are in the food system if we’re going to get this thing turned around quickly and you know if I can help anyone access or map out what’s going on I’m happy to do so but but there is a lot of information a lot of movies you mentioned Seaspiracy, the same producer did a movie, I guess two or three years previously called Cowspiracy. And Cowspiracy is another one that’s just fact based.
And Forks Over Knives was one I watched early on that was good for me because of the health issues and there’s there’s a lot of data and a lot of information out there and invite you to look at it.
Carley Hauck 54:23
Definitely. Thank you. Thank you so much, Curt. You know, another thing for folks that are just kind of getting interested in vegetarian or veganism and hopefully many of you are already, you know, one or two feet already in but there’s so much wonderful community that I would also say as a benefit. I mean, even myself, so I went into this grocery store yesterday. I’ve been shopping at it for the last five weeks since I’ve been in Oregon. And the sales associate that I spoke to who just happened to be, you know, stocking the aisles. I asked about this particular plant based process Good Catch.
And, you know, was was talking to her about it and she proclaimed herself to be a vegan. And I said, Oh, well, have you seen this product? And we just started talking about different vegan products that we were both very excited about. And she didn’t even know about Good Catch. But she said, Carly, have you checked out the community group here and Bender, that’s specifically for vegans, there’s a Facebook group, and they have all these gatherings and potlucks and, you know, so it’s just very welcoming. And as I was shopping throughout the store, she came back to find me because she wanted to have another conversation.
And so I would just say, even if you’re, you know, in this time, we’re like, I feel we’re all really trying to find the meaning, like, why are we here? What are what are we really standing for? And some of these things you might be in a community where you feel passionate about being a vegan or vegetarianism or more, you know, food justice, but there’s not a big community and, and there is a community that you could even find online. And maybe that inspires you to move to that community. So I just kind of want to invite people to follow their heart. Follow the the Clear, Current Capital, so to speak, just kidding.
Curt Albright 56:35
No, I appreciate it the current. I mean, it’s, it’s so true. And that spoke deeply to me and identify exactly with what you’re saying, because I went through that in the early days and loved it. And that’s what we set up in Charlotte through the humane league office that we opened up there. And I ran the Charlotte Veg Fest for five years, and that community was just so tight. And everybody, again, is only kind of a different place. And that’s, that’s great.
But, you know, the bottom line was, is that we had this core belief that, you know, things needed to change, and they needed to change, because there was so much suffering around us and that we were putting inside of ourselves, you know, every day that were alive, and it just didn’t have to be that way. So it was very empowering.
And, you know, almost any city has a tribe. And I know, I know that, you know, all these nonprofits have recipe booklets, they have all kinds of support and for social media and zoom, now it’s so easy to connect with people that, that share your belief systems and are there to really support you not to point fingers or, or any of that stuff. I mean, again, I mean, I came from a complete opposite world. So the last thing I want to do is shame somebody for eating meat.
What I want to do is inspire other people to feel the goodness that comes from living an authentic lifestyle.
Carley Hauck 57:52
Definitely. Well, Curt, this was such a wonderful interview, I really enjoyed the conversation. One last question that I have is, you know, I know that you’ve been very much on this spiritual path. And I feel curious as you’re leading in such a, what do we want to say exciting, but I’m sure kind of an intense time with all the things and projects, how do you keep yourself balance? Do you use that word at the very beginning? Like what are the practices that are keeping you able to, you know, swim through all the other waves, so to speak, in addition to that, that, I mean, you feel very clear on why you’re here and what you’re here to do, but I missed that what else is supporting you right now?
Curt Albright 58:44
My entire life really, I mean, it’s set up because it’s, it speaks deeply to me I got remarried to someone who I share core beliefs with, I start every day with prayer meditation. You know, I have my tribe in recovery. I have my tribe in in this world. And I you know, I moved to Florida that was more of a personal choice than anything else. And I resource in nature. And so to resource amongst the palm trees, I kayak on the Indian River. I mean, having that offshoot, I probably don’t feed myself those kind of things as much as I would like to just because there’s so much that needs to be done but, but I know that when I start getting off my own balance beam, I start feeling it. And and that’s not who I want to be. So you know, I have to take care of myself in order to be useful to others.
Carley Hauck 59:40
Thank you. Thank you. Is there anything else you’d like to leave our listeners or to share before we end?
Curt Albright 59:48
I’m just grateful to be here, I appreciate you inviting me and, you know, again, if there’s any way I can be of service to your listeners, to help kind of open up this world. I would love to be there. So our website is clearcurrentcapitital.com and and I think you’ve put a link up to that and and feel free to put a link to my email. And and I’m on LinkedIn too. So happy to have you to help if anyone is interested in mapping out this side of the world. Thank you for having me.
Carley Hauck 1:00:26
Thank you so much. I hope you enjoyed that conversation as much as I did.
Curt is a human being I literally feel like I could talk to you for weeks and weeks.
Curt, thank you so much for your heart and your commitment to really creating a world that is living in greater harmony with the planet and is supporting all beings to thrive. Thank you for your leadership.
If you would like to speak to Curt and learn more about his company Clear Current Capital and how you might support him, his LinkedIn handle is in the show notes.
Before we part, I wanted to leave you with some research, some resources and a call to action.
So this topic is something that I feel really passionate about, which is why I focused on
three different leaders in the space in my book. But I wanted to leave you with some inspiring research. This was published in the peer reviewed journal Foods. This research was led by Dr. Kerry Syngenta of Arizona State University, where it surveyed more than 2000 US consumers and over 2000 Uk consumers to examine attitudes and perceptions of the general population on novel cultivated protein products. It was found in this research that consumers believe that cultivated protein could make up as much as 40% of their future meat intake, and an examined attitudes and adoption of cell based meats among US and UK consumers. The study also found patterns of greater willingness and interest from younger generations to try these products. Though general levels of acceptance was observed across all age groups.
Here’s another sobering statistic.
The United Nations has warned that we have less than a decade left before the most catastrophic effects of climate change are irreversible. One of the reasons that we have these great challenges ahead of us is because it is estimated that 70 to 80% of deforestation in the Amazon is contributed to meat production. But as you heard from the conversation that Curt and I had, if you eat less meat, and you eat more plants, and you vote with your dollars, and you ask for products, that are living in greater harmony with the planet, are supporting the wellbeing of animals, you asked for this in your grocery store and you choose it.
This is one of the most significant things that you can do to start to mitigate climate change.
be educated and be an active consumer. This is being a conscious inclusive leader. So if you would like a little more education and you’d like some wonderful products to try, here’s some resources for you.
Three documentary films I highly recommend: Seaspiracy, Meat Me Halfway, and Need to Grow. The producer of Need to Grow was in a previous podcast panel with Josh Tetrick, who is the CEO and co-founder of Eat Just. And he’s also one of the leaders in my book, and that is on how to be a courageous leader in the midst of climate change. It’s a wonderful panel and I think you might really enjoy it if you liked this conversation.
I also would love to recommend my book. In my book, I talk about the pathway of how to be a conscious and inclusive leader but in that there are a lot of practices and a lot of ways we can apply, how to be mindful consumers, how to be eating in a way that’s in harmony with animals and the planet. And so there are lots of opportunities to practice if you listen to the audiobook or you purchase the hardcopy.
I would also recommend Draw Down as an incredible resource of a book. And there is a new online course of how you can actually follow along in the book that was put out through the Pachamama Alliance earlier this year. And the Pachamama Alliance is an organization I highly respect and the co-founder is Lynne Twist who is an incredible leader and wrote the foreword for my book.
I would also recommend the Riddick terian cookbook, which is a new book I discovered and it speaks to 125 plant based meals. And then of course, there’s the wonderful Good Food Institute.
And then if you want to start eating more plant based foods, you want to reduce your meat consumption. Here are a few of my favorite products that I could not live without. So I’m a big fan of the Just Egg for me eat just I eat it a few times a week. I also really like Good Catch, which is a plant based seafood alternative. Abbott’s Butcher has this plant based chorizo, I don’t even like real sausage I’ve never had but they’re plant based version is amazing. And Sweet Earth is also wonderful. They have a wonderful plant based sausage again, I’ve never really gotten into real sausages but their sausages are great. They taste like vegetables but kind of smoky and I love the taste of vegetables. Miyokose is a dairy free cheese. REBBL is another one of the companies and leaders I highlight in my book and they have some incredible smoothie and plant based elixirs that are full of superfoods. There’s Omnifoods, there’s Alphafoods, there’s incredible products by Beyond Meat. Light Life has a really wonderful tempeh that I use all the time.Wholy Veggie is a new product that I just discovered, which is in the frozen food section and it’s gluten free and vegetables. I am also recommending all products that are gluten free because I have had a gluten allergy since I was a little girl so I don’t eat any dairy and I don’t eat any gluten. And then my absolute favorite chocolate which is just honey and rocket cow is Honey Mamas. If you have not experienced them, they’re amazing. I keep trying to get them in the North Carolina Whole Foods and they have refused but they are missing out. Luckily the West Coast knows what it’s out what’s up because I can find it out here. It’s a little bit challenging to find it on the east coast. But hopefully with this podcast that will change. And then I also have plant based smoothies in the morning for breakfast most days. And I use Good Karma which is a flaxseed, protein milk that I really love.
So there it is, those are some of my suggestions. And if you’re feeling inspired to bring more of this topic or conversation to your company or organization and you want to create a culture while being an inspired, conscious, inclusive leadership, please reach out to me I’d love to talk to you and you can book a free consultation and the link is in the show notes.
Until we meet again. I wish you good health, a nourishing summer and I have lots of incredible podcast interviews coming your way to keep you inspired so that you can be the light and shine the light.