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We are kicking off season six with a conversion about the important topic of taking a stand for a good food system. I have the privilege and the delight to start this season with my friend Bruce Friedrich. Bruce is the CEO and founder of The Good Food Institute and he oversees their global strategy, working with the US leadership team and international managing directors to ensure that the Good Food Institute is maximally effective at implementing programs that deliver mission focused results.
In this inspiring interview, Bruce and I talk about the importance of taking a stand for a good food system. We speak about how he got started in the plant based and cultivated meat industry, and one of the best ways we can mitigate the warming of the planet, which is to increase the plant based and cultivated meat products and policy to support these products to market so that we can reduce the meat on our plates. Bruce also shares some fascinating statistics and science on this topic for our listeners, as the Good Food Institute is one of the incredible vehicles that supports the research policy and industry in this space worldwide. Lastly, we talk about the future of food being a combination of plant based and cultivated meat. Many big food companies are supporting and adopting this necessary and sustainable shift. This is one of the many interviews of the season that will support you to optimize your inner game so you can lead consciously at work in the world. Thanks for tuning in.
- Bruce Friedrich https://www.linkedin.com/in/brucegfriedrich/
- GFI on Instagram- https://www.instagram.com/thegoodfoodinstitute/?hl=en
- The Next Global Agricultural Revolution Ted Talk by Bruce Friedrich- https://www.ted.com/talks/bruce_friedrich_the_next_global_agricultural_revolution?language=en
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The Imperfect Shownotes
0:01 Carley Hauck
Hi, welcome to the SHINE podcast. My name is Carley Hauck and I am your host. This podcast focuses on the science, spiritual perspective, and the application of conscious, inclusive leadership, the recipe for high performing teams and awareness practices that you can cultivate to be the kind of leader our world needs now, I will be facilitating two to three episodes a month.
And before I tell you about our incredible guest and interview today, please go over to Apple podcasts and hit the subscribe button so you don’t miss any wonderful episodes.
For those of you joining for the first time, welcome. This season is going to focus on topics related to optimizing how we live, work, and play. So that we can cultivate a strong inner game. The inner game is what I refer to, in my book, Shine: Ignite Your Inner Game to Lead Consciously at Work and In the World as the internal operating model that we can develop on the inside. So we bring our whole and best selves to our teams, our workplaces, our community, and our relationships.
The inner game rules the outer game, and I have the privilege and the delight to start season six off with my friend Bruce Friedrich and he has a pretty badass inner game y’all. We are going to be talking about the important topic of taking a stand for a good food system. Bruce is the CEO and founder of The Good Food Institute. And in this inspiring interview, we speak about how he got started in the plant based and cultivated meat industry. We talk about one of the best ways we can mitigate the warming of the planet, which is to increase the plant based and cultivated meat products and policy to support these products to market so that we can reduce the meat on our plates.
In fact, a recent study from the UK a few weeks ago just documented that 40%, 47%, of carbon emissions are not coming from transportation, which is where most of governmental resources go to but livestock farms and the way that we eat. If we can bring mindfulness to our food and consumption patterns and habits, we will ensure a more regenerative world and thus can bring back wild forests and have all the sustenance that nature provides. In this interview, Bruce also shares some fascinating statistics and science on this topic for our listeners, as the Good Food Institute is one of the incredible vehicles that supports the research policy and industry in this space worldwide. Lastly, we talk about the future of food being a combination of plant based and cultivated meat because the majority of food companies are supporting and adopting this necessary and sustainable shift.
Bruce oversees the Good Food Institute’s global strategy working with the US leadership team and international managing directors to ensure that the Good Food Institute is maximally effective at implementing programs that deliver mission focused results. He is a TED Fellow and his 2019 TED talk has been viewed 2 million times and translated into dozens of languages. He has been called the American food hero by Eating Well magazine. He graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown Law and also holds degrees from Johns Hopkins University and the London School of Economics.
This is one of the many interviews of this season that will support you to optimize your inner game so you can lead consciously at work in the world. Thanks for tuning in.
Carley Hauck 4:30
Hello, everyone. I am so excited to share with you a wonderful leader and human. Bruce Friedrich, thank you so much for being on the Stein Podcast.
Bruce Friedrich 4:43
I’m delighted to be here, Carley, thanks so much for having me.
Carley Hauck 4:46
Thank you. Well, Bruce we met last year and I have just been so impressed and inspired. I’ve been following your journey for a couple years but I finally, I think I just posted something about you on LinkedIn because I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm anymore. And I’m just so excited to share your story and your leadership today.
So, before we go deep into your journey of conscious, inclusive leadership, how would you define conscious, inclusive leadership? And why is that important to you?
Bruce Friedrich 5:24
Well, let me start currently by thanking you for that insanely kind introduction, undeserved, but super gracious. And I’m really grateful. Conscious, inclusive leadership. I mean, it’s, it feels cliche, but I really do like the concept of servant leadership. And there has been a lot written about servant leadership. And at least for me, I’ve mostly found it, I’ve mostly found servant leadership writing to really be quite good.
But the phrase basically encapsulates the concept really well. And so I’m not gonna, I think, add much color for people who are versed in it. But really recognizing that the role of leadership is to help people vocationally self-actualize. So for all of my time, or close to all of my time, running organizations or running departments, what I have tried to do is provide a space where people remember why they’re doing the work they’re doing.
And that’s particularly easy to do at some place, like the Good Food Institute, and probably pretty easy to do, that most nonprofit organizations, you have a mission, you have a vision. Everybody who is there is already excited about the mission and the vision. And it’s just taking the time to, as frequently as it doesn’t get old for team members, remind people that although things can sometimes feel a bit like grind, the mission and the vision or they’re helping us to charge forward.
So for GFI, radically transforming the way that food is made with all of the benefits that I imagine we’ll be chatting a little bit more about. And reminding people sort of keeping people on the team and focused on that. Which is easier said than done to some degree. But I think at a nonprofit organization, not that difficult. And then the other two elements of vocational self actualization.
I really love Daniel Pink’s book Drive, which is about this topic. And the other two things that he talks about. One of them is putting people into roles where they feel challenged, but not too challenged. As somebody who’s spent a couple years teaching in inner city, Baltimore, through Teach for America, and studied education at Johns Hopkins, it’s kind of the theme also of how education works. And how you move somebody forward. If it’s too easy, you’re outside the sweet spot. And if it’s too hard if people throw up their hands and disengage. And I think that same concept is what you’re going for, as a leader, leading a team.
And then the third element is sometimes called autonomy. Although oftentimes people get the wrong idea about vocational autonomy and think it means do whatever you want to do, which, obviously it doesn’t, people are at the organization and hired into specific roles. And at least at GFI, we set objectives and key results. So everybody is responsible for the key results that they have set on an annual basis, and then we recalibrate a couple times a year. So we’re checking in three times a year in total on key results. So we’ve sort of reframed autonomy as significant reliance on the team at the frontline team member, to be the one who figures out how the work gets done. I’m still part of a team, you know, people are counting on you, but people are also supporting you. But strong mission, strong like focus on mission and a high degree of autonomy to figure out how to get the work done. And then challenge but not to challenge and the role of the conscious inclusive leader is to create that for people to help people self actualize in their vocations.
Carley Hauck 10:03
Hmm, that’s wonderful. Yeah, I love the reference to servant leadership and the focus on mission autonomy. And really focusing more on results versus, you know, checking. Did you do this? Right, you know, which I think, typically tends to be old fashioned performance reviews, but they’re not really empowering, or inspiring people to bring their best.
Bruce Friedrich 10:29
Yeah, yeah, I think that’s sort of the micro managerial mindset is pretty demoralizing for people. And, and I think what’s like a GFII, we do have a very rigorous hiring process. And, and we treat the idea, we really want people to come to GFI with full awareness of what the organization is that they’re joining. So our hiring process gives people a bit of a snapshot into that.
But we also want to make sure that once we bring people onto the team, we feel confident, once they’re on-boarded and trained, we feel confident, relying on them to represent the organization and to do the work without anything that approaches or might even look like micromanagement. So we do, we go out of our way to hire phenomenally competent, and also extraordinarily kind team members. And if we get that right, which we do the vast majority of the time, that makes conscious, inclusive leadership for the people on the leadership team a lot easier to feel confident leading in that way.
Carley Hauck 11:47
Wonderful. Yeah. You’re definitely looking and scanning for the right people to meet the culture. So tell our listeners more about the trajectory of GFI, the Good Food Institute, when it started, how it evolved, where it is today, what is the vision going forward?
Bruce Friedrich 12:12
Um, wow, that is a big,
Carley Hauck 12:16
It’s a mouthful. Try to put it into, you know, a couple bites, if you can.
Bruce Friedrich 12:22
Yeah. So the genesis of GFI, was really looking at what the Beyond Meat folks, Ethan Brown and his team and the Impossible Foods folks, Pat Brown and his team, and at that point, Hampton Creek now, Eat Just, and this idea that we have been for decades, educating people with a view toward convincing them that they should eat less meat or no meat.
And the brainstorm of the folks in the alternative protein movement is that that endeavor will be facilitated in a colossal way, if we can give people alternatives that don’t require sacrifice. So for decades, we’ve been trying to convince people that through the moral weight of the argument to eat less meat or no meat, and per capita meat consumption, even in developed economies, where education is the greatest, it just keeps going up.
So illustrative of that, is that even in the United States, where people best understand the external costs of meat production, per capita, meat consumption was the highest it had been in recorded history. In 2019 it went up, in 2020. I haven’t seen figures for 2021. But I think the early predictions are that it will have gone up again in 2021.
Carley Hauck 13:58
I feel so outraged hearing that that’s a surprise. Wow.
Bruce Friedrich 14:02
The remarkable thing about that, Carley is every, every year, in January and February, there are these articles about all of the people who are saying to pollsters that they are eating less meat, or no meat. And it’s just not true, at least according to the statistics from USDA, and I think they’re right. People are not good at evaluating their own behavior when they’re answering questions and polls. There’s the degree to which people say what their aspiration is. And it’s sort of, I mean, it’s similar to the vast numbers of people who if you ask them, Are you trying to lose weight? Will say yes, and yet, every single year for decades, obesity and overweight has gone up.
So even as people understand what needs to happen, to not be overweight or obese, nevertheless, they need whole new colors for the maps to look at, you know what percentage of each state is overweight or obese on and it just gets worse and worse the same thing is true on with meat. People learn more and more about the external costs and harms. But where food is concerned physiology it’s the base of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, its physiology.
And for the vast majority of people, food is not something that is rational, and where ethics, or even weight loss figure in as much as people might prefer. And so at GFI, following the lead of companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods and Hampton Creek, leaning into the idea that instead of working against human nature, we can work with human nature. And we can give people the precise products that they are craving, but we can make them in a way that does not have the external costs. So we can create the precise meat experience using plants. Or we can create actual animal meat by culturing the meat, instead of growing vast quantities of crops and feeding it to animals with all of the global health and biodiversity and climate and animal cruelty harms that come with the current system.
Carley Hauck 16:34
You’ve really honed in on the science, the policy, the research around these two distinct subjects in when we think about eating healthier, plant based, or the cultivation of clean meat, we could say or cultivated meat. And I know that there are lots of resources and education on the Good Food Institute around this.
But I feel curious, you know, for you, your evolution, why does this matter so much to you? I mean, it’s evident, you know, to me, but I’d love to hear so you can share with the listeners because, you know, again, there’s an ethical, there’s a conscious, deeper internal motivation that is driving you that not everybody has. And I’d love it if you could spark that in everyone.
Bruce Friedrich 17:31
Well, I mean for me, for me, it does go all the way back to my confirmation classes in the mid 1980s. And reading Matthew 25, which is for me, it has to do with Catholicism, but I think you can put it into a context for any faith or no faith, like what does it mean to be an ethical human being in the world. And in a world where hundreds of millions of people are living a nutritional deficit, hundreds of millions of people, their caloric intake is not sustaining basic bodily function to the degree that 10s of millions of people die every year from nutrition deficit related causes.
That was the thing that was motivating for me and starting GFI, the sort of foundational question was, how do we feed close to 10 billion people without burning the planet to a crisp. And if we’re going to add another couple billion people by 2050, and we’re already living in a world where somewhere on the order of 700 million people are living in extreme poverty, we need a system that where that doesn’t require that the vast majority of calories that are created by our farm system are given to farm animals.
So the most efficient animal at turning crops into meat is the chicken. And according to the World Resources Institute, it takes nine calories of crops to get one calorie back out in the form of chicken meat. That’s literally 800% food waste. So for all of your listeners who are concerned about food waste, which I’m guessing is 100% of them. We are rightly outraged at the fact that something like 40% of all food that’s produced is wasted.
But the simple biological fact is if you feed eight calories to a chicken, nine calories to check to get one one calorie back out, you’ve wasted eight of those calories you’ve went to 800% food waste just in the nature of what the production system looks like. With cattle, it’s 4,000% food waste 40 calories and to get one calorie back out in a world where hundreds of millions of people are living in extreme poverty. And that is just morally outrageous. And then you factor in climate change.
Carley Hauck 19:55
And we’re running out of water because we’re in a drought. When we think about, for example, you mentioned the chicken, you know, eggs, and how much water it requires to, again, feed the chickens to be able to give them the feed, and then all the water loss as well. And you’ve mentioned Hampton Creek now, Eat Just, Josh Tetrick is a friend. And he’s one of the leaders that I highlighted in my recent book. And so I talked to Josh many, many times really understanding his motivation, the journey of Just and how they’ve gotten to where they are, but you know, the product that they had been able to bring to market and distribute in a much bigger way is the just ag and they’re also number ginning on the cultivated meatspace as well, just to add that in.
Bruce Friedrich 20:47
Yeah, the United Nations released a 408 page report titled Livestock’s Long Shadow. And they said, the inefficiency involved in growing crops to feed them to animals so that we can eat animals, you know, further to what you just said, if it takes nine calories into a chicken to get one calorie back out, that’s nine times the water, nine times the herbicides and pesticides, nine times the land.
And then for cattle, it’s 40 times for pork, it’s somewhere on the order of 13 to 15 times, for eggs or dairy, it’s four to six times, that is just vast amounts of waste. And the UN report, they said, whatever environmental issue you’re looking at, from the smallest and most local to the largest and most global, the inefficiency of producing animal foods is one of the top three causes.
So shifting to making meat from plants, turning the meat directly into plants, or cultivating meat directly from cells, where you don’t waste the vast majority of the calories fed to the animal on simply allowing the animal to exist or turning it into bones, or feathers or other bits of the animal that we don’t eat. It’s just a far more efficient process across all of the environment.
And it also I mean, just two things to toss out quickly. One of them is antibiotic resistance, more than 70% of all antibiotics produced by the pharmaceutical industry globally are fed to farm animals. And that is leading to antibiotic resistance, which could lead to the end of modern medicine. No antibiotics are required for plant based or cultivated meat, so it takes the risk of your food causing antibiotic resistance from huge to zero.
Carley Hauck 22:40
Let’s talk about, for people that I’m sure you know, I’m sure are aware but why are they needing to feed antibiotics to all these animals? I mean, you and I know, but could you just lay it out?
Bruce Friedrich 22:51
Um, it Yeah, it’s two things. The first one is they discovered decades ago, if you feed antibiotics to farm animals for reasons that veterinarians still don’t understand, the animals will convert food into meat significantly more quickly.
And then they also discovered that factory farms are viable if you use prophylactic antibiotics. So you couldn’t cram 50,000 chickens into a shed without colossal death losses, if you were not drugging the animals up prophylactically. So it’s not that they’re using antibiotics to treat sick animals, it’s that they’re using antibiotics to allow animals to live in intensive conditions that would otherwise kill vast numbers of them, and make the factory farming system less profitable.
So it’s kind of a dual benefit. And it’s interesting, the number of times the pharmaceutical and industrial farming industry in the United States has gotten sort of another bite at the apple where FDA will say, okay, they’re going to voluntarily not use antibiotics for growth promotion anymore. And front page news and the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, you know, victory on antibiotics and farm animals. And yet, year after year, since that announcement, maybe eight or 10 years ago, antibiotic use has actually gone up. Just the prescriptions no longer say that it’s for growth promotion, they say it’s to prophylactically keep the animals alive. And oh, hey, it also causes them to grow more quickly. Who knew? It’s really sort of a remarkable example of the degree to which the agencies that are supposed to be regulating these industries, all that aren’t.
Carley Hauck 24:54
Well, thank you for laying all of that out for our listeners. So I know I asked you a very big question. And I’m tracking our conversation. So you know, we started off with your deeper motivation, of wanting to be more ethical, more conscious, maybe coming more from your early days, probably as a child, learning more about Catholicism, but also then seeing the total inefficiency of how are we going to feed all of these people with our limited resources, and with our ecosystem already under so much duress, and on top of that, this inhumane way of, you know, nourishing our bodies through cruelty towards the animals when it’s not necessary.
And so going back to the Good Food Institute, there’s been a real focus on science and industry and policy around plant based products, but also around the science and development of cultivated meat. And I feel curious if you could share a little bit more about the science of cultivated meat, because you’ve already talked a bit about, you know, slaughter houses, so to speak, and livestock farms. And I think there’s a lot of information that is not clear around cultivated meat and why that would be such a better option.
Bruce Friedrich 26:26
Yeah, absolutely. And one thing just to say about GFI. And I guess, sort of this background for this conversation, on the GFI website, which is just GFI dot org is pretty much Wikipedia, plus, you know, Wikipedia with like scientific curation, on alternative proteins. So if you go there.
Carley Hauck 26:48
Yes, it’s fabulous. And we’re gonna leave a link in the show notes. I know, the website’s incredible.
Bruce Friedrich 26:53
Thank you. And yes, if anybody would like a deeper dive into cultivated meat production, you can go there, you can get there either through in the top nav, upper left, clicking on cultivated, or if you want a deep dive into the science, one, row down, click on science, and that will. So there’s sort of two ways to get there, depending on whether you’re more interested in cultivated meat as your primary interest or the science of creating meat, without live animals as your primary motivation.
But until GFI existed, nobody had plotted out the technological readiness of any of these technologies. So you had people like Ethan and Pat focused on creating meat from plants. Or you had, well, nobody really other than Uma Valetti, the point at which GFI started, it was the only company that had been founded. And he had just been accepted into the Indy Bio, into the Indy Bio Accelerator at roughly, well, actually, the exact same month that GFI started that I started working on GFI. So we sort of grew up together, which was fun.
But with all of these companies, nobody had, it was I have an idea. And then I have a company, I have an idea. And then I have a company, and nobody had taken a step back and said what is the technological readiness of the idea of thorough biomimicry of meat with plants? What is the technological readiness of cultivating meat from cells? In other words, cross applying therapeutics technologies over to the food space? What are the critical technology elements? What are the areas that are clear? What are the areas that are super unclear? Where should we be applying our scientific inquisitivity and really answering these questions and publishing peer review articles and doing research.
So GFI, probably the plurality of GFI team members across all of our offices around the world are scientists and it’s basically attempting to open source the science in a way that will be helpful to these entire industries as well as the basic science that we’re trying to generate more and more of on university campuses.
And the thing that’s better on both the the cultivated meat side and the plant based meat side and in the case of cultivated meat, it’s basically just like you can take a seed or a cutting from a plant and bathe the seed in nutrients, put it in hospitable soil and cause the seed to grow into a plant. You can do the same thing with cells from a chicken or a pig or a cow or a salmon where you bathe the cells in nutrients and the cells multiply and grow and become actual chicken meat. or pork meat or salmon, meat, or whatever else but without the need for a live animal.
And we’ve been doing that for quite a while in therapeutics, doing tissue engineering. And obviously, therapeutics is going to be a much more expensive endeavor, it’s going to require medical grade ingredients. So the trick is to figure out how do you cross-apply what we already know to food. And it has all of the benefits we were just chatting about. There’s no live animals, so there’s no cruelty to animals, there’s no need for antibiotics, there’s no possibility of increasing pandemic risk. There is a fraction of the climate change, as well as a fraction of the land use required. And then all of the environmental benefits that we were talking about just a minute ago.
Carley Hauck 30:56
Wonderful, well, thank you for sharing that. And we’re seeing new products, you know, in all of these pretty much standard meats, you know, we’re seeing products that are either cultivated or plant based in the seafood space, in the beef space, in the egg space. We already talked about Just, I’m in San Diego today. And a company that I’ve been following, and I’m feeling very excited about is BlueNalu. And they’re based here.
I also know that on your website, you have created a partnership with the World Sustainability Organization to start to certify plant based seafood products under the Friend of the Sea certification program so that people know that this is not, you know, harming the planet. Could you share a little bit more about that, too? That’s very exciting.
Bruce Friedrich 31:50
Yeah, thank you. We’re, I mean, one of the things that we’re really working hard to do is frame plant based and cultivated meat, as meat. So just like your phone, that probably most people listening, have a phone in their pocket or within reach, and it’s your cell phone. 25 years ago, very few people were using phones that didn’t have cords, and it’s still a phone. 25 years ago, there was no camera phone that was invented I think 21 years ago in South Korea or Japan. And nevertheless, your camera is still a camera, even though it doesn’t have analog film.
So when we think about seafood in the case of the relationships that we’re building with sustainable seafood certifiers, but also with terrestrial animals, this is not an alternative to meat. This is an alternative way of making meat. So what Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are doing is making meat but doing it from plants because meat is the experience of meat. It’s not the production process of getting there. And similarly cultivated meat is meat and plant based and cultivated seafood are seafood.
So in talking with the sustainable seafood certifiers about using their sustainable seafood certification on behalf of companies like BlueNalu. They’re in San Diego, and then also companies like Good Catch and other plant based seafood companies. We think it is critically important to help consumers in the world recognize that this is the same product they love, just produced in a way that doesn’t have all the harms.
Carley Hauck 33:50
Mm hmm. Wonderful. Well, and when we think about climate change, I mean, protecting and saving our oceans is so important because if we don’t have our oceans, like we’re 70% water. I feel like there’s such a need to really have people start to transition and shift away from seafood and I believe in 2020 Seaspiracy, the documentary that was put out by Netflix was one of the most watched documentaries.
So again, you know, more people are becoming more educated about the underbelly, the dark underbelly of the seafood industry and the havoc that that’s causing, but as we started the podcast interview with it’s still interesting that these patterns continue to repeat themselves, even when there’s education and for me who studies systems and behavior change and, you know, bring a lot of different tools and learning pathways to support leaders and organizations to shift. It takes a lot for people to change their behaviors. And I find there often has to be, you know, something really personal that impacts or affects them or a lot of suffering, unfortunately. And I just see, you know, if we don’t make these shifts, and I imagine you agree with me, there’s just gonna be so much suffering that we could avoid right now.
Bruce Friedrich 35:22
Yeah, and I mean, one of the things that we point out at GFI is across the issues, that these better ways of promoting meet, address. The people who are most adversely impacted are the people who are already suffering the most. So the people who are most adversely impacted by climate change, in addition to being the people who did the least to contribute to it, are the most vulnerable human populations.
Similarly COVID-19 sent more than 100 million people into extreme poverty. None of those people were in developed economies, they were all in developing economies, lots of them in rural India, or Sub Saharan Africa. The same thing is true of the end of working antibiotics, which is the end of modern medicine that’s going to most adversely impact people who can least afford medical care and don’t have access to the medical care that you and I and probably 100% of your listeners have access to.
And that doesn’t even get into animals, billions of animals whose lives are categorized by just unmitigated misery throughout their entire lives. And so, so alternative proteins, correct for all of those harms. They don’t, it’s worth noting, solve for every harm and injustice across the entire food system chain. But they do solve for a lot of things that are worth solving for, as we have we, as we’ve been chatting about. So it’s not a radical restructuring of the entire system. But certainly shifting from the way that meat has been produced for the last 12,000 years, to a way of producing meat that doesn’t cause all of these harms. It’s pretty spectacular.
Carley Hauck 37:28
I agree. And so going back to the wide reaching arms that the Good Food Institute has, you started in the US, but as we were talking about before we started the recording, you’re in Singapore and Europe, Brazil, you have expansion happening in Japan and South Korea. And there’s areas that you’re focusing on in science and industry and policy in education, and solutions. What is the vision with all these incredible locations and people coming together? I’d love to hear.
Bruce Friedrich 38:09
Thanks, Carley. Yeah, so GFI right now, it’s kind of a network of NGOs. So we have about 140 Full time Team members 75 of them in the US, 65 of them across our five affiliates in India, Israel, Brazil, Asia Pacific, as you said, out of Singapore, and then Europe, we have offices in Brussels and in London, on and the focus is really, to sort of the organizational battle cry, is to get governments to fund alternative protein open access research, and to incentivize private sector activity in the same way and for the same reasons that governments are doing that on climate change mitigation, and biodiversity.
So 190-something I think governments have signed to the Paris agreement to keep climate change, hopefully under 1.5 degrees Celsius, but definitely under 2.0. That is a literal and scientific impossibility, unless meat consumption goes down. And alternative proteins are probably the only way that we are going to cause conventional meat consumption to go down. UN is predicting 70 to 100% more meat production by 2050. So alternative proteins, making meat from plants, cultivating it from cells is the only food and ag solution to climate change mitigation, that analogizes to renewable energy and electrification of transport.
Carley Hauck 39:53
I want to just pause us there for a minute. That was, that was big. I just want everyone to listen to that. digest it. The only way. Okay, first, please keep going. Thank you.
Bruce Friedrich 40:05
Yeah, no, I appreciate that. Currently, we have been trying to convince people to eat less meat, as I said earlier for 50 plus years. And yet per capita meat consumption just keeps going up.
Carley Hauck 40:20
That’s what’s going on inside of me, Okay, keep going, I’m sorry.
Bruce Friedrich 40:22
Most of the 70 to 100% meat that’s going to be produced by 2050 is happening in developing economies, where we are least likely to use behavior change, to convince people to eat less. But just like the goal of renewable energy is not to go around the world and say, consume less energy, especially in developing economies that would be incredibly inequitable, and immoral.
The goal is to say, yes, we’re, you know, we’re going to consume, we’re not going to try to convince people not to consume, that would be a losing battle. But we can make consumption significantly less harmful by using renewable energy, that decarbonizes the economy. Same basic thing with electric vehicles, we’re not going to convince people in developing economies that they should, you know, drive less, they’re already driving less than us, we’re not going to go in there and say, Yes, we, you know, drive a bazillion miles a year. And you don’t get to because of climate change. Both here and there we say, let’s use electric vehicles and decarbonize transportation.
So this is the same thing with meat. Let’s decarbonize me, let’s eliminate methane production from ruminant digestion. Let’s eliminate nitrous oxide production from manure decomposition, let’s slash co2 production from all of the extra stages of production that are unnecessary. If you shift to plant based uncultivated, let’s free up vast quantities of land that can be used for bio sequestration as part of a comprehensive or curation.
And so yeah, the idea of alternative proteins and sort of the GFI global battle cry is to help governments and the NGO community that’s focused on climate to integrate alternative proteins as their primary and most tractable food and ag solution to climate change. Right now, there’s almost nothing happening on food and ag and Bill Gates in February when he launched this, how to avoid a climate disaster book he was saying until alternative proteins, he was scratching his head on food and ag, because they couldn’t come up with anything that analogized to renewable energy, they couldn’t come up with anything other than programs that require vast government oversight, or require vast amounts of individual behavior change. And both of those things are not tenable. Alternative proteins, this is the one solution that allows us to address the literally 1/3 of climate change that’s attributable to food and agriculture. It’s absolutely essential.
Carley Hauck 43:06
I believe Bill Gates is an investor in Memphis meats as well, but I think he’s an investor in a few other cultivated and plant based meat companies. So he clearly believes in it as the solution part of the solution.
Bruce Friedrich 43:19
Yeah, in his book, it’s the one thing he’s enthusiastic about on the on the food and ag side and GFI actually worked with so Breakthrough Energy ventures, his his climate venture fund, spun off into Breakthrough Energy, which is an NGO, and GFI worked with them on their policy proposals around this, and, and on food and ag, the one thing they’re calling for governments to do is exactly what we’re calling for governments to do, which is fund Open Access science and incentivize private sector activity in this area.
Carley Hauck 43:52
Well, wonderful, well, in order to have people shift to eating a different way, and therefore changing the food system, it sounds like we need to have more really wonderful products, going to market that people can buy, more education, but then also shifts in the greater system with policy and industry. Would you summarize that as kind of the two pathways or is there another way?
Bruce Friedrich 44:19
Yes, I mean, so GFI, as you rightly noted, we focus on science because we need to build the scientific ecosystem and then the science feeds into policy and industry. So GFI’s three programmatic areas are science policy, and industry. And on the industry front, we do think we’ve had a lot of luck working with the really big food and meat companies, which is probably the thing we’ve been most pleasantly surprised by is the openness of the world’s largest to accompany all of the world’s largest meat food companies appear to be really open to this new, better way of making meat and all of them are moving in this direction. And that we think are laudable and super encouraging.
Carley Hauck 45:13
Can you name a couple of them?
Bruce Friedrich 45:15
Oh, the largest meat company in the world is JBS, they just put $100 million into cultivated meat. And they have launched their entire plant based meat lines in both Brazil, where they are predominantly based. And in the US, where JBS US is certainly in the top three US based meat companies. But JBS globally is number one, Nestle similarly largest food company in the world is, is we’re seeing similar activity on both the plant based and the cultivated meat side. So all of them or all of them are moving in this direction in ways that we think are super encouraging.
Carley Hauck 52:52
That’s wonderful. And then we have these, you know, smaller startups that have wonderful products. And one of our friends, Curt Albright, has several portfolio companies. There’s also you know, this, which has really supported a lot of incredible products to market and distributing them far and wide. So it is happening, and there’s a lot of food tech entrepreneurs.
And then the system, you know, changing, changing the system, where do you feel inspired, that the systems are changing. And I’ll also just name an area that I felt really inspired by earlier in the year. And we’re only on January 14 today. But California, which is a huge state in the United States, has now created a new law for composting, which is fabulous when we think about the mitigation of climate change and soil regeneration. And that is a system that I’ve been wanting to shift for a long time. So I’m hoping that other states will follow that lead. So I use as an example of are there other systems that you’re seeing shift that can support more of this, of this greater change happening within the food system?
Bruce Friedrich 47:13
Yeah, I mean, the thing that’s most exciting to me about a shift to alternative proteins is the global potential. So GFI is not in Singapore or Israel, because we are focused on what people are eating in Singapore and Israel. And similarly, we’re not opening in South Korea in Japan this year, with a focus on what people are eating in Korea, South Korea or Japan.
The science that happens in Singapore or Israel can take over nationally, this is, you know, back to the idea of analogizing to renewable energy and electric vehicles. The advances in one country have positive global impact because science is global. So, um, something like USDA, putting $10 million into a consortium of half a dozen universities led out of Tufts and Virginia Tech, focused on cultivated meat strikes us as a colossally good sign. Something like the National Food strategy in the UK, recommending 125 million pounds, about $180 million in private sector support for alternative proteins. And that’s on the back of even more encouraging stuff that’s happening in places like Singapore and Israel. And we’re optimistic about governments in Japan and South Korea, basically creating something like the space race, but focused on food.
And we see the systems changing, and you’re seeing it with more and more scientists, you’re seeing more and more governments taking this seriously. And all of the world since we were just talking about all of the world’s biggest food and meat companies, recognizing that this could very well be the future of how meat is made, and wanting to be out in front of it. So it’s systems change of a system that, you know, meat production has been done basically the same way for more than 10,000 years, and looking at shifting that to a new and better and less harmful way.
Carley Hauck 49:22
Wonderful. Well, I know that there are lots of resources, we’ve talked a lot about some of the options from the Good Food Institute. I also feel curious if you might point our listeners to conferences, to maybe a book that you would really recommend if they’re, if they’re still kind of on the verge of shifting, they want to eat more plant based. They want to, you know, be more vegan in their lifestyle. I mean, all the information is out there. Hopefully this interview is inspiring more of that bigger step forward, but it’s always great to leave resources are tips, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Bruce Friedrich 50:04
Well, I would encourage people to go to gfi.org/newsletters and see which of the GFI newsletters are of interest to you. We do also have gfi.org/community. We have monthly, two different monthly webinars. One of them is the business of alternative proteins. And the other is the science of alternative proteins for people who are interested. And if you sign up for our newsletter, we tag all of the conferences and events that are happening in alternative proteins, whether they’re GFI events, and we have, as noted, at least 24 a year. And then we have lots of focused events on the various reports that we are publishing as well. And then we fund a lot of science. So we’ll have events with the scientists that were funding and that sort of thing. And all of the upcoming conferences. My favorite conference is probably the Future of Food Tech conference, which happens in March in the Bay Area. And then June in New York City. And October, early October, in London, although that is pretty entrepreneurial focused. GFI has for the last number of years had our annual good food conference. But I think we probably are not going to do that this year. So that we can lean in to a lot more sort of one off focused webinars, and people can find out about all of those by signing up for one or more of our newsletters.
Carley Hauck 5139
Wonderful. Well, this has been a fabulous conversation, I feel like I could talk to you for hours. I always learn a lot in these interviews. And if there is, you know, anything else that you’d love to share, I’d love to give you the floor.
Bruce Friedrich 51:57
That’s very kind of you, Carley. Thank you. I mean, I guess the main thing is, for people who are listening really think about where you can plug in. So alternative proteins, we are working very, very hard to make alternative proteins the way that meat, dairy, eggs are created for climate mitigation, to stop biodiversity loss, to keep antibiotics working to prevent the next pandemic to address cruelty to animals. This is a vocational way to spend your life that it’s really worth, the time and the effort and super satisfying. So just challenge people to think about how they can plug in.
And also just to note that GFI is pretty much always hiring. So we’re about 140 people now and we’ll be north of 200 by the end of 2022. So feel free to check out options at gfi.org/careers. And again, if you sign up for one of the newsletters, you’ll find out about new openings as they come up.
Carley Hauck 53:01
Wonderful, thank you. And I also wanted to just give a little light, there was a podcast that I did last year with our friend Curt Albright and we talk more about the future of food and we talk about some of the portfolio companies and products that he is supporting. So for folks that are curious about all the amazing products that they could try, there’s a lot of links in the show notes and we talk about them also on the interview.
But I would also say if you’re living in an area where you don’t see your favorite product for example in your Whole Foods or your natural you know food grocery store, ask for it it’s so important to ask and ask repeatedly if they still don’t get it in the store because you are the customer and companies and especially health food stores are going to listen to the customer.
So for example I was living in Asheville, North Carolina, or outside of Asheville, North Carolina and they did not have Good Catch. And I asked for it again and again. And they then brought it in and I think I probably wasn’t the only one but if I was then it worked. And you know sometimes you just have to look through the aisles a little bit more.
What I wish would happen, I’m just gonna put it out there, is that the alternative based seafood and other products we’re not at the very bottom of the aisle where nobody can see it or it’s like there’s cobwebs all over it. I noticed that tends to be where they stick it but it’s at the very top or it’s at eye level. Hello stores, let’s put this in clear view.
Bruce Friedrich 54:43
That’s super nice. You had also asked about it. Yeah, definitely the power of one person to make a positive difference and obviously, you know that that makes those products available for all shoppers at that grocery store which is just so great.
There’s one book that people might really quite enjoy, Clean Meat by Paul Shapiro, with a foreword from Yuval Harari, the author of Sapiens. It’s really a fun, interesting look at especially the early days of the move toward cultivated meat. And folks can find that at cleanmeat.com online.
Carley Hauck 55:23
Great. Bruce, thank you so much. Thank you for leading and showing up every day the way that you do. I know that you have got a huge mission. And you’re just serving in such an incredible way again, so delighted to have this conversation. Thank you.
Bruce Friedrich 55:40
Right back at you, Carley, thank you so much for focusing so much attention in this space. And thanks for your podcast and everything you’re doing to make a more just food system really honored honor to spend this time with you,
Carley Hauck 55:52
Bruce, this was worth the wait. I’m so glad that we were able to have you as the first guest in 2022. It was meant to be thank you for your light, your service, your leadership, and I am deeply grateful for you.
If you want to get in touch with Bruce or the Good Food Institute, the links are in the show notes. Please check out the incredible resources available there. The SHINE podcast has been self sponsored since May 2019. It is freely offered from my heartfelt desire to be in service in support of a workplace in a world that works for everyone and is living in greater harmony with the Earth, from conscious inclusive leadership and socially responsible business practice.
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