There’s a lot of buzz around Paul Shapiro's new book Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World – and we’re not just saying that because GFI is a key player in the plot!
So far, reviews have been rave about this first-ever book chronicling the race to commercialize clean meat. It’s even endorsed by three former cabinet secretaries, including Republican and Democrat secretaries of agriculture!
Naturally, we at GFI were thrilled to sit down with Paul to chat all about it.
After a two-decade career in animal advocacy, why’d you decide to make your first book about food technology companies?
To get to do an interview with GFI, of course! (Seriously, I love GFI and am honored to be chatting with you; thanks!)
To answer your question: The animal protection movement has accomplished so much, and I’m honored to have played a role in some of those advancements. At the same time, it’s increasingly become clear to me that as much good as animal advocates can do for farm animals, food technology companies may be able to do even more good or at least can accelerate the work of animal advocates in pretty dramatic ways.
As my friend Seth Goldman – founder of Honest Tea and chair of Beyond Meat – argues in an intriguing blog, Henry Ford accomplished more for horses than Henry Bergh (the founder of the ASPCA) did, despite the fact that Bergh’s passion was to help horses while Ford was hardly contemplating their plight at all. As GFI correctly points out, what if the Memphis Meats and Beyond Meats of the world can do to factory farming what Ford did to the horse-drawn carriage industry?
Makes sense. So what’s the thrust of the book’s argument?
If I tell you too much people won’t have to go buy it! But in short, while the book does make an argument, it primarily tells the story of the entrepreneurs and investors who are racing to commercialize the world’s first clean animal products. The argument relates to the promise that these start-ups have to address many of the most pressing sustainability problems we face. But more than anything it’s a story about a group of idealists who want to save the world, and to do so are creating an entirely new industry that didn’t exist just a few years ago.
What’s your favorite story in the book?
Ha, it was a lot of fun to write since there were just so many good stories to tell. Probably one of my favorites involves Perfect Day (a clean milk startup) pitching Solina Chau of Horizons Ventures in Hong Kong for an investment. After a harrowing journey to China, the mid-20s entrepreneurs who’d just started their company weeks earlier were about to watch one of the most powerful people in venture capital taste their prototype. I won’t ruin the ending, but suffice it to say that it didn’t exactly go as planned.
No, indeed it did not! But fortunately for Perfect Day things seem to be working out now.
True, thankfully. Ryan [Pandya] and Perumal [Gandhi] are doing just fine.
Some have asked whether we even need clean meat since plant-based meats have gotten so good. What do you say to that?
We’ve had plant-based meats for a long time—centuries, in fact. I love them and am a big fan of the companies that produce them. At the same time, plant-based meats still make up less than one percent of the meat Americans buy (and even less globally), meaning that a lot of people seem to want what they perceive to be the “real thing.” I really believe that with the right set of circumstances (better product placement, better distribution, and lower prices), we can see an explosion in the plant-based meat sector like that which we’ve seen in plant-based milks.
However, in the same way that the problem of fossil fuels is so severe as to warrant more than one solution (wind, solar, geothermal, and more), the problem of factory farming is so bad that you also want more than one solution (plant-based meats, clean meats, whole foods plant-based diets, and more).
Well put. So, finally, what do you hope the book accomplishes?
Ending factory farming, of course. No pressure. In the meantime, my hope is that Clean Meat introduces a lot of readers to the new field of cellular agriculture and the promise that field holds to address serious problems from climate change and food security to land scarcity and animal welfare. I also hope it helps people see the value in having nonprofits like The Good Food Institute that are helping to create and grow this important field.
Now everyone else: immediately go buy this book for everyone you know!