Think-King: How To Control Your Thoughts for Massive Efficiency
He had a hunch about heme, an iron-carrying molecule in hemoglobin which makes your blood red , whose structure is similar to that of chlorophyll which enables plants to photosynthesize.
There was. In , the company tested heme from thirty-one sources, ranging from tobacco plants to geothermal-spring water. Myoglobin from cows, the obvious candidate, oxidized too quickly which is why ground beef goes brown in your fridge. Soy leghemoglobin performed best, so Impossible built a dozen machines to try to harvest it from the root nodules of soy. Nothing worked.
They ended up manufacturing heme by genetically modifying yeast with a snippet of soy DNA. An improved formulation, introduced last January, swapped out wheat for soy and was not only gluten-free but also lower in fat and cheaper to manufacture. The 2. Maple Leaf Foods, a Canadian company, is building a three-hundred-million-dollar facility in Indiana to make alternative proteins. But its C. Climate change, which now drives our hunt for meat substitutes, originally drove hominids to turn to meat, about two and a half million years ago, by making our usual herbivorean foodstuffs scarce.
Eating animals added so much nutrition to our diets that we no longer had to spend all our time foraging, and we developed smaller stomachs and larger brains. Some scientists believe that this transformation created a powerful instinctive craving. An inborn meat hunger remains a hypothesis; meat is the object of many human urges, including the urge to construct all-encompassing theories. We relish meat because history has taught us to think of vegetarians as weaklings, weirdos, and prudes.
For lunch, Ethan and I ate the latest Beyond Burger. Built around proteins derived from peas, mung beans, and brown rice, it was enriched with coconut oil and cocoa butter. Ethan, a self-described tough grader, rated it a 7. While savory, and possessed of a plausible mouthfeel, the patty was also curiously dense.
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Ethan said that he planned to expand his supply chain to include proteins from such plants as flax and lupine. Thirty-three companies are working on a single-ingredient approach: using animal cells to grow meat in vats. The management consultants at A. Kearney predict that by the technique will produce thirty-five per cent of all meat. Josh Tetrick, the C. This spring, Tetrick watched closely as I ate his chicken nugget. It tasted weirdly healthy—I missed the creamy crappiness you expect from a fast-food nugget. The cell-based approach may eventually provide meat using a tiny fraction of the land and water that livestock use.
But cell-based meat remains a fledgling field.
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The Good Food Institute has calculated that the entire group of startups has raised only seventy-three million dollars. So costs remain extremely high and yields extremely low. Just originally announced that it would introduce cell-based meat by ; Tetrick told me he now hoped to have his chicken in a few restaurants by the end of this year.
His production cost for a single chicken nugget is still fifty dollars. In a recent survey by the investment bank Barclays, plant-based meats have a tiny edge among American, Indian, and Chinese consumers. Tetrick believes this will shift in time, as people in the developing world eat more meat. So I think Pat Brown is wrong. Or, guess what, we could both be wrong! Since , global meat production has grown more than four hundred per cent. In areas such as sub-Saharan Africa, where one person in five is malnourished, meat is the quickest fix.
Its consumption also demonstrates to the neighbors that you can afford something other than rice, yams, or cassava. He tossed a notepad on a conference table, across from half a dozen Impossible executives, and looked probingly at Pat Brown. Searchinger was the fox who knows many things; Brown the hedgehog convinced of one. He fiddled with a piece of paper, folding it into a rectangle. The company was holding meetings to determine which distributors would get less product, and had postponed launching in supermarkets. Brown announced a steak project earlier this year, then put it on hold to address the supply crunch.
North America makes up only twelve per cent of the global market for meat; he needed to wipe out livestock everywhere. And the even bigger threat is from China. Brown made a face. Searchinger looked wistful. The point is to hold down its growth. In June, more than a thousand people descended on the Quality Hotel Globe, in Stockholm, to discuss how to feed the world without destroying it. The annual conference of EAT, a Scandinavian nonprofit dedicated to making our food system sustainable, showcased backpacks and business beards, talk of the Global South and the Global North, and the AirDropping of dire bar graphs.
There was an atmosphere of acerbic self-satisfaction, a sense that only those present understood both what it would take to save humanity and that it was probably too late. This is a technology problem. While all cattle graze on grass for much of their lives, at least ninety-five per cent of American beef cattle spend their last four to six months being fattened on grain at feedlots. You just need to get rid of those cows!
We use livestock for dowries, for diversity of diet, and as a store of wealth. They are literally cash cows. The thing that grows best here is goats! They shook hands and rose without regret. But he would also get the benefits of averting catastrophic climate change and of our eliminating the biggest drain on his freshwater sources and his land—which is his neighbors raising cows. When Pat Brown was twelve, and he and his six siblings were living with their parents in Taiwan, he figured out that his father, Jim, was in the C. This itineracy, Brown came to feel, made him a resourceful citizen of the world.
Most of the things of value that I learned I learned on my own. In college, at the University of Chicago, Brown loved pure mathematics, but felt that it was too removed from public service. So he majored in chemistry.
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He became a vegetarian the summer after he graduated, spurred by his younger sister Jeanne, whose animal-welfare arguments convinced nearly everyone in the family to stop eating meat. That same year, Brown met Sue Klapholz, and began an M. The couple married in and six years later relocated to Stanford, where Brown became an associate professor and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
They had three children and brought them up as vegetarians. They still live in the cedar-shingled faculty-housing condominium they moved into more than thirty years ago, now accompanied by a deaf, senile rescue mutt named Sebastian. Every other arrangement, though, has always been up for grabs. In , he co-founded the Public Library of Science, a nonprofit publisher of open-access science journals that competed , with some success, with the commercial journals that offended his principles by limiting access to their trove of knowledge. At Impossible, Brown second-guesses himself in ways he never had to as a scientist.
At a recent meeting to consider promotions for ten staffers, Brown derailed the agenda by questioning the whole idea of tiered titles. Nonetheless, he beefed up the protein in his burgers. He is equally baffled by challenges from people who agree with his goals but question his methods. When Impossible undertook the required animal testing to get F. But PETA , in its zeal, often fails to grapple with the nuances of means and ends.
For instance, it opposes eating chicken, pointing to the abuses of factory farming. American broilers, chickens raised for meat, are bred and confined in ways that make them more than four times larger than broilers were in the nineteen-sixties; as a result, they often collapse from their own weight.
The protest was personally shattering to me, as a longtime PETA supporter. The C. The agribusiness giant Cargill recently invested in Puris, which supplies Beyond Meat with pea protein, and in two cell-based startups. A few months ago, in Washington, D.
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