Billionaires Are Betting Big on Alternative Meat

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Creating designer protein that can make your veggie burger taste like the real thing is as easy as brewing beer. Or at least that’s what a new subsidiary of Boston-based bio-manufacturing startup, Ginkgo Bioworks Inc., says.

Ginkgo’s Motif Ingredients, which aims to replicate animal protein for meatless alternatives, is getting $90 million from investors including Breakthrough Energy Ventures, whose board includes tech billionaires Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Jack Ma. Commodity powerhouse Louis Dreyfus Co. and Fonterra Co-operative Group Ltd, New Zealand’s dairy-exporting giant, are also backing the company.

The goal at Ginkgo is to get alternative products to market faster, chief executive officer Jason Kelly said in an interview. In a statement announcing the funding, the company likened making alternative foods to the beer-brewing process, because vital ingredients such as vitamins, amino acids, enzymes, and flavors are made through fermentation with genetically engineered yeasts and bacteria. Eliminating extra time in the lab can streamline the process and make it go faster, Kelly said.

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Meatless Moo-vement; Impossible Foods Readies Burger Launch

Over the past four years, a small, well-funded startup has been developing a new burger just a few miles from Stanford University.  It’s not meat, and it’s not just a veggie burger.  What Impossible Foods is trying to do is create a meat replacement that looks, tastes, feels, and cooks like regular ground beef.

Like most other Silicon Valley startups, Impossible Foods is looking to disrupt an existing industry.  For the founder, Patrick Brown, that is the inefficient, international meat supply, which relies on a huge carbon footprint to maintain.  Industrial animal farming uses a third of the planet’s land, destroys millions of trees per year, and consumes a third of the global water supply.  “We’re getting into this very scarily unstable area where we’ve never gone before in terms of pushing the boundaries of a stable planetary system,” Brown says. “We’re driving toward the cliff with our foot on the accelerator—and nobody was working on this as a solvable problem.”

Brown is working on this problem by approaching the “veggie burger” from a different angle: less quinoa and beets and more “proteins, fats, amino acids and vitamins derived from wheat, the roots of soybean plants, coconuts, potatoes and other plant sources.”

And now the chefs are talking.  Tracy Des Jardin, chef-owner of Jarindiere in San Francisco, will be the first to put the product on her menu, and she’s excited.  “I equate this to when grass-fed beef first hit the market. Initially consumers were skeptical, but now some prefer it.”  Later this summer, select New York restaurants will launch the burger, as well.  We will keep you posted when it comes to town!

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