Emma Hoarty / Sun Staff Photographer

Bruce Friedrich, executive director of the non-profit Good Food Institute, speaks about plant-based meat production on Tuesday.

May 2, 2017

‘Clean Meat’ to Change Industry, Food Entrepreneur Says

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Your chicken fingers may soon be made of peas, according to food entrepreneur Bruce Friedrich.

Cornell Students for Animal Rights hosted Friedrich, executive director of the non-profit Good Food Institute, who gave a talk on Tuesday on how animal proteins could yield sustainable and efficient alternative ways to produce meat.

Friedrich opened his talk by discussing the inefficiency of industrial animal agriculture.

“The vast majority of what you feed to chicken or cow is wasted,” he said. “Chicken, which is the most efficient agriculture meat, only returns one calorie for every nine calories used to feed them. That creates an 800 percent waste.”

The inefficiency of animal food consumption raises deep concerns for the food industry, Friedrich explained. Since cereal is required to feed agriculture chickens, the farming of chicken drives up the price of cereal. This may lead to reduced access to food. When the world is already struggling to feed its population, animal agriculture worsens the problem.

“Animal agriculture is also one of the most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global,” Friedrich said. “[This is] including land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity.”

As an alternative, GFI has worked to develop plant-based meat, such as pea-based chicken. These products have gained popularity with some of the biggest tech investors in Silicon Valley, including Bill Gates, Biz Stone and Sergey Brin.

Not only are these products more efficient, but they also create less environmental concerns.

“Plant-based meat are in the early stages of a macro trend, similar to the way soy and almond milk changed the milk category.” Friedrich said.

Friedrich said that Memphis Meat, another alternative meat producer, grows real meat from cow or chicken tissues in labs instead of using plant feed.

While dairy parity makes up nearly 10 percent of the milk market, meat alternatives only represent 0.25 percent of the market. But the industry will see dramatic change in the coming decades, and by 2050, nearly 20 percent of the meat market will be alternative products, according to Friedrich.

GFI has visited schools like Cornell, MIT and Wharton to spread awareness about animal protein alternatives. Friedrich said he hopes students will be motivated to use this knowledge to create their own start-ups in the food technology and help to solve one of the most pressing issues facing food security today.

“When automobiles were introduced, they soon relegated horse carriages to the status of tourist attractions,” Friedrich said. “I’m absolutely convinced that we are going to get to a time, through food technology, that eating agriculture meat is like packing up your bags and going to New York in a horse carriage.”