If a bear eats a burger in the woods and doesn’t realize it’s not from a cow, does it care? Until bears evolve the ability to communicate, I suppose we’ll never know. It’s an impossible question, but not as impossible as the Impossible Burger it just ate.
The future of meatless meat is here! So we asked the closest thing we have to a bear in the woods at Building Tomorrow, our producer Landry Ayres, to taste test two burgers, one an Impossible Burger and the other a traditional burger. Check out the episode to find out whether Landry guessed between them correctly, then stay for our interview with an Impossible Foods representative about the environmental benefits of this burger that is made from soy protein yet still ‘bleeds’ when you bite into it.
How do you define meat? Does Impossible Burgers taste like regular burgers? What is the environmental impact of the Impossible Burger? What is the key ingredient to the Impossible Burger? Is it possible to make the Impossible Burger at the same price as a regular burger? What is the difference between lab grown meat and the Impossible Burger?
Impossible Burger: Here’s what’s really in it, written by Laura Reiley
Can a Burger Help Solve Climate Change?, written by Tad Friend
The FDA Ruins Everything You Eat, Free Thoughts Podcast
Popping Techno-Utopian Bubbles, Building Tomorrow
When Is a Market Failure Not a Market Failure?, written by Jon Murphy
00:05 Paul Matzko: What better way to determine the future of the Impossible Burger than doing a blind taste test. So I’ve asked Landry Ayres, one of our production team to join us in the studio and taste test one of these Impossible Burgers versus a real burger. So, Landry, thank you so much for opening your stomach for science.
00:23 Landry Ayres: I’m glad to be here.
00:24 Paul Matzko: Now, I didn’t expect you to take blind taste test quite so literally, but this bandana you’re wearing is, it befits you.
00:31 Landry Ayres: For science, I wanna make sure that everything is as it needs to be, to have this be the most rigorous experiment possible.
00:40 Paul Matzko: It’s an N of one, but a very significant one. So why don’t we start, I’m gonna ask you take the burger on the right.
00:46 Landry Ayres: Burger on the right.
00:48 Paul Matzko: Give it a good old bite, good old hee-haw and first impressions.
00:56 Landry Ayres: Okay. Alright. Burger on the right. If it is impossible, having not looked at it at all, I wouldn’t be able to tell, tastes like meat, pretty good amount of flavor, not too dry. It seems good to me. I don’t know what kind of price range we’re at here, but that was a pretty tasty burger. So you know…
01:21 Paul Matzko: Alright. Okay.
01:21 Landry Ayres: I enjoyed it.
01:22 Paul Matzko: Okay, then why don’t we do burger on the left?
01:24 Landry Ayres: Burger on the left.
01:24 Paul Matzko: And tell me what you think and we’ll do a guess, which one you think is the Impossible Burger?
01:29 Landry Ayres: Okay, this, the bun feels the same. So, no hints so far. Okay. I feel like this one has a little bit less of a meaty taste. It is not like it is significantly more planty in flavor, but I feel like I just got much more of that sort of like, I got a very recognizable, like what the idea of beef is to me from the first one. So if that is the Impossible Burger, the first one, it could be that they just have really figured out how to distill the idea of beef, and put and inject it in there or maybe I just, I know my beef, so…
02:17 Paul Matzko: Alright, so go into your head, which one do you think is the Impossible Burger, right or left?
02:22 Landry Ayres: Which one is the Impossible Burger? I’m gonna guess the one that I ate second, the one on the left, just first impressions alone.
02:31 Paul Matzko: Okay, well, how about you take… Let’s take off your blind fold and take a visual inspection, see if that changes your…
02:36 Landry Ayres: Okay, it’s a good idea.
02:37 Paul Matzko: Opinion?
02:39 Landry Ayres: One moment.
02:41 Paul Matzko: Through the power of audio editing this will never have happened.
02:44 Landry Ayres: Okay, okay, so I’m looking at the one that I ate first. Hmm, interesting. Now the second one. A little bit more pinkish, I feel like on the second one. I… Not being a grill master, per se. I don’t know if I would be able to tell the difference without looking closely, but now I’m… I’m a little torn, I will say.
03:18 Paul Matzko: Yeah, okay yeah, well, maybe it may surprise you to learn that you were wrong in the first place that the burger on the right, your first burger is the impossible burger, on the left is the real one, so…
03:27 Landry Ayres: Wow! Fascinating! You… I don’t know if they’ve made a convert out of me, but I’m certainly much more of a believer than I was prior to this recording, I must say.
03:38 Paul Matzko: And do you think the blind taste test bit matters, because you have, once you’ve seen one, you can kind of identify an Impossible Burger just on look alone, ‘cause it just looks a little bit… The grain looks a little bit different.
03:51 Landry Ayres: I agree, and looking at it now, I was about to say, but I hesitated ‘cause I didn’t consider myself an expert, but I can see some of the texture looks a little bit more, almost like black bean patty-esque, like it was put together, whereas the meat tends to feel like it was, it’s its own thing separately, but…
04:14 Paul Matzko: If that’s all the difference, what matters to me is how it tastes.
04:19 Landry Ayres: Yeah.
04:19 Paul Matzko: Not what it looks like.
04:20 Landry Ayres: Absolutely, I would not have known. Science is amazing. [chuckle]
04:30 Paul Matzko: After hearing Landry lasciviously munch his way through a burger, I’m feeling about 50% suddenly hungry and 50% utterly disgusted. While this is obviously just one person, just a mere anecdote, the fact that the taste of the two burgers was so close, they couldn’t tell which was which. It’s a sign that meat alternatives have become a true alternative. Right now, the cost of the Impossible Burger is still several times the cost per ounce of ground beef, but if consumers adopt it then economies of scale should eventually make it price-competitive with traditional beef along with all the added environmental and cultural benefits. I wanted to know more about the future of meat alternatives. So I went to the Impossible Foods headquarters in Silicon Valley to meet with Rebekah Moses.
05:22 Rebekah Moses: I’m Rebekah Moses, I’m our head of impact strategy. So what that means is as a business, our core mandate is help create a food system that’s much more sustainable, create these environmental savings around land, water, greenhouse gas emissions, and so we can do that really through core business, we can do that through product, we can do that through the markets that we roll out in. And so, thinking about the ways that we can maximize that environmental impact, the ways that we can create change agents out of our consumers, that’s a big part of my job.
05:48 Paul Matzko: And so, maybe we should set a baseline, which is what we’re deviating from here. What is the problem with just frying up a good old burger, if it’s 4th of July, fireworks later that night, frying a burger on my grill. Why is that potentially a problem?
06:00 Rebekah Moses: Beef comes from cattle and so, cattle are just a really, really inefficient way of getting calories and protein out of plants, and onto your plate to the tune of a 97% loss in the amount of calories and protein that were originally in those plants and so you scale this up, you think about currently, more than seven billion people on the planet, we’re eating more and more beef. The cost of what that’s doing in terms of our environment is fundamentally gonna compromise food security moving forward. I mean, you can’t really overstate the urgency of this, it’s hard to overstate the level of problem that we’re looking at in terms of bio-diversity loss, in terms of the opportunity cost of the land that we’re using and the carbon capture that could be there. So it’s finding different ways to shift our food system.
06:56 Rebekah Moses: Finding really kind of transformative solutions where people don’t have to be convinced of behavior change, that’s really what the company is about finding that perfect product that can be much more sustainable. Still meeting those needs that a consumer has. You want it to be good, you want it to sizzle on a grill. But yeah, the system does need to change, it’s just environmentally untenable.
07:20 Paul Matzko: It’s… I’m reminded of the statistics about the rate of, I suppose you can say, economic growth in developing world and something that’s a bit of a constant in human history is that as people become wealthier as a society becomes more prosperous, they eat more meat. Now I’ve heard that there’s a a counter to that, which is that some of the most environmentally damaging meat that’s produced in in places like Sub-Saharan Africa. So what… Does Impossible Foods have a… What’s the vision for a world in which products like Impossible Foods are more widely used, not just in the United States, but globally is the world in which no meat is consumed. Where should this impact be felt first.
08:08 Rebekah Moses: Well, it’s definitely true that emerging economies are seeing a huge boost in their demand for meat products that includes dairy, it includes pork. Certainly cattle is the one that as our environmental person that really scares me, but the western world and other economies have been eating meat to a huge extent for a very long time. So we’ve already set that environmental foot print, like this is what we did. As those countries, and as those economies start adding meat consumers what’s really important is that we provide new technologies or new ways of getting that same experience, the nutrition, the food culture, synchronicity, finding new ways of getting a product to them, that can leapfrog the effects of what would otherwise happen if that were to come from animals.
08:56 Rebekah Moses: So we’re already completely, I’d say, bio-physically maxed out in terms of what we can do with livestock scaling. It’s already 30 to 50% of our land area. Compare that to just 3% for urban places urban environments where humans live and work, it’s a tremendous use of land, a tremendous opportunity cost for carbon. And if we expand that, if we expand it system, we make our footprint, even bigger the outcomes for food security are going to be pretty dire. These new consumers absolutely deserve good nutrition, good experience with food, the same access to the things that the rest of the world has decided they’re gonna enjoy too and finding new ways to provide that.
09:38 Rebekah Moses: That’s part of the reason that we’re in Hong Kong and Macau, and Singapore, that’s where emerging growth is happening and in a lot of cases that’s coming out of other countries. You have virtual resource flows. Feeding demand for cattle in Asia is coming out of the Latin American tropics, and we need to preserve these places. We all need to change the way we eat, especially those of us who are already consuming a lot of meat.
10:02 Paul Matzko: So let’s say a pound worth of traditional ground beef you buy at the store, let’s say you got a pound of Impossible Burger, though I think it’s a little 12 ounces chunks at the moment. But let’s say a pound, so pound-for-pound. What’s the difference in terms of oh greenhouse gas emissions or environmental impact factor, to get to the one versus to the other?
10:21 Rebekah Moses: So what we did is we have a full life cycle assessment, this is how we know what these numbers are. And we basically took impossible burger, and we said, “Alright we know what all these impacts are and then we compared that to a very typical feedstock or rather feed lot operation in the United States, so that’s traditionally regarded as the most efficient beef can get is a situation that’s not very good for the cow, but… And so, across the board, we’re about 89% more efficient in terms of our greenhouse gases we use or generate far, far less.
10:53 Rebekah Moses: 87% more efficient in terms of water, and 96% more efficient in terms of land use, and on a per pound basis, I believe that translates to about 90 gallons of water, it’s a little under 300 square feet of land spared and it is about 30 pounds of carbon equivalents that are spared.
11:15 Paul Matzko: Then maybe we should we should talk to what actually goes into the Impossible Burger what’s the key ingredient that makes it so impossibly burger-like.
11:24 Rebekah Moses: Heme is our magic ingredient. It’s really the catalyst for why the product can behave like beef in terms of cooking, and changing color and the flavors and the sensory experience that you are familiar with from beef. Heme, in high abundance in red meat is what causes that. So this molecule is found in every living organism, in high abundance in things like red meat. And we clearly weren’t going to go to animals for that source even though it’s really important for how meat cooks. What we did was we found that molecule in a protein expressed in the root nodules of soy plants, it was well known that this existed, it’s called leghemoglobin. We were just the first to figure out how to put it into food. So we don’t harvest that from the root nodules of soy plants, we produce that in yeast fermentation culture similar to how you’d produce rennet for hard cheese or Belgian beer even.
12:23 Rebekah Moses: Much more sustainable for us and so that’s the key ingredient that goes in with protein, from soy, protein from potato, coconut oil and sunflower oil and it allows us to replicate what that experience is. From cooking to tasting to largely nutrition. Heme is super important for that.
12:41 Paul Matzko: Now this was, as I understand it, Patrick Brown who’s the, kind of the original founders, scientists by training, this was his insight, right? The idea that heme, we don’t need it from animals, or from meat though obviously that’s a rich source of it, but we can extract it from… I don’t know if soy was this initial thought… How did this occur? Do you have a story about how this came to be.
13:05 Rebekah Moses: Pat has such a great story for how he came to this. He was not in food manufacturing at all. I mean, he was a biochemist at Stanford, sort of an atypical CEO and founder for a start-up and he is just someone who kinda sits around and thinks about how to save the environment. So over the course of doing so, during a sabbatical year that he had from Stanford, he sort of arrived at the conclusion that consumers are the most important thing that you can leverage to spare the environment, you can’t ask for behavior change, but you have in the US more than 300 million people who you can potentially create as change agents if you can help change the way that they eat without asking them to compromise. And so his thought was, “Well I know the livestock sector is the absolute predominant driver of these things like biodiversity loss, of climate contributions, of carbon capture losses.
14:00 Rebekah Moses: So how do I create, how to build a better mouse trap? How do you make a better product that’s more sustainable but still delivers that experience? And so he started this company to make meat from plants knowing that that was gonna be much more sustainable. Early on he assembled this group of wonderful scientists and their initial hypothesis was, what’s so different, why can’t a veggie burger, like we have on the shelves now why can’t that act like meat, why is it just not as good. Well heme, heme is really important? It’s in the myoglobin of your blood. In hemoglobin and we as a company have really found that that’s important for how our product behaves. So he came to that idea just trying to figure out how do you, from the ground up, build a product that can be made from plants, that can be delicious, that can really create that experience of meat. So they did testing, figured out. Yeah, this is, from a sensory perspective, from a chemical perspective, it’s important for how meat does what it does.
15:03 Paul Matzko: The idea of using soy-based… Soy, as an alternative to meat… And we’ve had veggie burgers for some time. This is not like that part of it. The idea of a meat alternative based on soy is not brand new, the heme element is, but that’s not brand new. And between Impossible Foods and Beyond Burger, we have two competitors both with a lot of excitement, a lot of attention in this space. So, why now? And they use different means. Impossible’s got heme. Beyond Burger has their own approach using a different protein-base. But why at this moment, as opposed to any other point in the last, say, 30 years, do you think this is really attracting so much excitement. Is it cultural, is it economic, is it technological?
15:50 Rebekah Moses: It’s probably a little bit of everything. I think the reason we’re seeing kind of a sea change in how we’re approaching food technology and food systems has to do to some extent with, oh God, we’re recognizing that the climate issue is incredibly urgent, maybe more so than we thought, we’re recognizing that our food systems are kind of in peril if we keep on eating the way that we do. Clearly that’s an incentive for founders to kinda get into this, but you need the economic component. So between recognizing that there’s a need for it from a… Just a planetary resilience perspective, from investors recognizing this is a massive trillion dollar market, tons of room for growth. That it’s, not only is it a huge existing market, but the additional market of emerging economies. There’s a very good way to make money from this, third the technology associated with how we produce heme how we can go down to a molecular level and figure out how to reverse engineer from plant ingredients. What the experience of meat is. It all came together at a perfect time and we’ve really seen clearly the proof of concept and the investment excitement for it.
17:00 Paul Matzko: On the kind of economic point, on the cost, price point. So my understanding is that 12 ounces of Impossible Burger ground beef is not… Let’s see $9 for 12 ounces, which is, you can get a pound so a little more than that of ground for three, four bucks. So we’re talking about Impossible Burgers costing about three times as much for weight, maybe a little more, compared to regular beef. So right now we’re still asking… Impossible Burgers is still asking people to pay a premium to, I mean for a variety of good reasons. To help save the environment, more sustainability etc. Are there efficiencies that… Do you see that price coming down. Is there a way to make that cheaper to make it more price competitive beef in the medium term?
17:50 Rebekah Moses: Sure, and two things, it really depends on where you’re purchasing Impossible Burger, Impossible Lasagne, Impossible Beef Bolognese, whatever it was turned into, wherever you’re purchasing that. If it’s from a restaurant partner that price can be really variable. So, I’m from Minnesota. I was really excited when we launched with White Castle. So it’s like two bucks a slider, right? And so my dad can eat that and he’s super cheap and he can’t eat cholesterol, so that’s great for him. At the same time you can get it at a really fancy restaurant. That’s very similar to how ground beef is marketed. Depending on where you are, you’re gonna get a different experience, a different price point. The Whopper is… An Impossible Whopper is a buck more. The intent is 100% to bring the costs down eventually or bring the price down as a result and through economies of scale, we can definitely do that. Just thinking about what our supply chain is versus what it takes to create an animal from feed crops to rearing it over years to slaughter, taking plant ingredients and fundamentally squishing them together. We can bring those costs down.
18:55 Paul Matzko: Cause you can see the real transformative effect happening when people who are. They’re on the fence about… Maybe they do care about helping the environment, but at the end of the day, they want something that tastes comparable. And that is… But they’re not willing to pay much of a premium for that, because yeah, they’re just looking for the cheapest thing on the shelf. If you can get that price point closer, that unlocks a huge community of people who… They’re not doing it for altruistic reasons primarily, that’s the bonus for them. It’s because, hey, here’s a thing that’s… Yeah.
19:27 Rebekah Moses: And people will see us all over the country, including in Asia, and I think it’s important to remember, we’re really young as a company. So that price point, we’re at small scale, we have massively expanded production over the past several months to meet demand and as you scale of course prices come down. So it’s a matter of time, but for right now, it is fairly accessible and I think we have… Consumers can see that, depending on where they are, but yeah, getting to an accessible price is really important for the mission, the environmental mission. If we look at consumer polling, we look at consumer data and not just for us, across the board, people might be motivated by sustainability. It doesn’t mean you’re going to purchase something based on your environmental values, few people do, and you do actually need an alternative. So the difference between a Toyota Corolla and a Prius isn’t that big, but you don’t really have that for a veggie burger or at least we didn’t until recently. You don’t get the same experience of a veggie burger that you did with beef.
20:29 Paul Matzko: So one of the other… In terms of meat, we call this meat alternatives, so we’ll get to the meat, the alternatives question in a bit here, but the other big start-up interest and venture capital interest in this general space of meat and meat alternatives is lab-grown beef or lab-grown meat, cultured cells and the like, which at this point still is, we’re years away from serious consumer roll out, it’s still fantastically expensive relative to what… To even you guys. But we can imagine a future in which lab-grown meat is price competitive with you guys, with regular beef, what’s the argument for Impossible Burgers in that future world, in the world in which you can have meat that is not a meat alternative, meat that is molecularly very similar to…
21:28 Paul Matzko: We’re in the lab but it’s meat from a cow originally, has all the environmental benefits or many of the environmental benefits or maybe it doesn’t, that has some of the environmental benefits of things like Impossible Burgers. Why would consumers choose Impossible Burgers over lab-grown meat, in the future in which this… You have this plethora of options in front of you. They’re all price-competitive. Why still have an Impossible Burger?
22:00 Rebekah Moses: Well, I would really turn that premise on its head. We’re looking at what we have, which is a plant-based burger that can function in the same way, deliver the same sensory of experience, deliver nutrition, we can keep getting better, right. We can keep on improving, cattle can’t really do that. You have millions of amazing plants, crops that you can go to, to find these proteins, find these fats and oils, and create something that you don’t have to compromise on the experience and we’re commercially available.
22:34 Rebekah Moses: Now looking at a different technology that’s much farther out, much harder to prove. I would argue that we have not seen proof of the across the board environmental sustainability improvement of that. It’s still very early technology, very energy-intensive so depends on what grid you’re on. But why go with something that’s kind of an unproven exquisite technology, when there’s an abundance of plant-based options out there and we can really create that same experience and it’s from known food sources. I think that there is a huge argument to be made that maybe there’s room for all of these things in a future food system. If we can get the environmental credentials right, if we can get the nutrition right, the experience and culinary characteristics right. There’s room for all of these things if we can hit those marks. Right now we’re showing that we’re able to do that. Yeah, I’m not sure what the future is going to hold, but.
23:32 Paul Matzko: There was kind of an industry movement in… Among vegetable growers and the companies that sell vegetables to… It’s been years ago, now, but the push for an organic, a self-labeling organic label on food and some sort of certifications, industry run certification system for saying, well this food is organic, it was organically raised via these minimum criteria, etc. Is there any interest for Impossible Foods to work with other meat alternatives to do something similar that this is food that is certified to be, I don’t even know what the term would be, but it meets these minimum requirements of sustainability, some sort of self-labeling way of helping consumers to identify the environmental impacts of the foods they’re eating.
24:22 Rebekah Moses: And there’s a lot to unpack there. And on the consumer side, it’s not necessarily something that they want to have front of mind or that currently is front of mind, that’s kind of the premise of the product, right, is that it doesn’t have to be. At the same time we hold ourselves accountable to our own standards. At a certain point maybe you can see some value in a certification framework. In terms of other kind of agricultural products, there’s varying degrees of success with achieving outcomes through that. But for right now, what we do is we really focus on our sustainability credentials and work to optimize those and if we can be… We are as transparent as possible with that whether it makes it onto a label, [chuckle] I’m not sure, maybe in Scandinavia. [chuckle]
25:00 Paul Matzko: That’s right, that’s right. In fact, I think your founder, I think Patrick Brown, he doesn’t like that I just use the, I’ve been using a phrase a lot here, meat alternatives. My understanding, he doesn’t like the alternatives part of that, he just wants to call it meat. I suppose the logic is that heme’s heme regardless of whether it’s from meat or from soy. Can you flush that out a little bit for us? Why doesn’t he like the term meat alternatives?
25:33 Rebekah Moses: I can’t speak to Pat’s kind of theory on that, although I can take a guess, as to… Well, how are we defining meat, right? For me, and I think the way that we approach it as a company is whatever you call it, if we are able to deliver a product that can be substituted for a very environmentally intensive product. If you can get consumers to switch over to something without asking them for behavior change, that’s really, whatever you call it, that’s the goal. And so, if it’s meat from plants, whatever it is, what we’re seeing is 95% adoption by omnivores, and so our audience are consumers, about 95% of them, 90 to 95% of them, eat meat on a regular basis. So I’m not sure they’re too bothered by whatever it’s called, clearly there’s a market for it, they’re substituting, that’s where you get these environmental outcomes, and I think we’ll kind of wait and see how the vernacular develops around meat from plants.
26:36 Paul Matzko: Sure. What’s the response been like from the vegan, vegetarian, community? So on the one hand, the push for here is a thing that is as close a substitute for a burger as possible, is by its nature framed around the interests of meat eaters. You don’t have to sacrifice the things you love about meat when you eat an Impossible Burger. But in the sense of vegetarians and vegans, I imagine, have a bit of an interest in being different… I mean that appeal wouldn’t necessarily work as well, with the vegan-vegetarian community. So what’s the response from the vegan-vegetarian community and do you have a different way of approaching that question for them?
27:18 Rebekah Moses: The vegetarian and vegan communities, it’s important to remember, they’re already doing the right thing when it comes to sustainability and future food security, they’re already eating low on the food chain. That said, if they wanna consume the product, that’s great. Certainly our market is omnivores, but with vegans and vegetarians, just from my personal experience, it’s been a big diversity of reactions. Some of them, depending on why they gave up meat in the first place are like, “Oh my God, this is the first time I’ve been able to have a burger in forever. I’m so happy I love this.” I have definitely met a vegan or two who for them it’s like, “I gave up meat ‘cause I didn’t really like it.” This is totally squikking me out, to use a technical term. It’s uncanny for them. So it’s definitely a, there’s a mixed bag there.
28:03 Paul Matzko: So there have been moves by, so any time you have a new food technology and there’re incumbent interests, market-dominant actors, they have a natural tendency to want to limit competition from a new upstart technology. This was true of butter producers and margarines so they passed a law saying you can’t color your margarine before you sell it to consumers. Once upon a time, if you were old enough, you remember having to spread a little yellow dye manually after you bought your margarine which is ludicrous thinking of now, but the idea was butter manufacturers didn’t like… You couldn’t call it butter, you had to call margarine and you couldn’t color it, so consumers wouldn’t be… I’m doing air quotes here confused about what actual butter was. We’re seeing something similar right now with traditional meat farmers, with the livestock associations, cattlemen’s associations pushing for states, most recently Missouri, to ban calling things like Impossible Burger and meat alternatives meat. Does Impossible Burger have a stance on that? What’s your response to these attempts to force you to not label what you’re calling meat?
29:13 Rebekah Moses: We are so transparent in how we talk about the product, our consumer interactions, we say exactly what’s in it. We say it’s a plant-based burger. And I think we have a lot of faith in consumers that they know what they’re eating, they know what their choices are, and so we’re gonna leave it to them. And it is a new frontier for labeling but we generally put our faith in the folks who are consuming the product and who are choosing it. So we had a team presence at the UN Climate Week in New York and it was so motivating to just see like there was three, four million youth out protesting last week, talking about for Jesus guys, let’s get it together, let’s figure out climate change, and can you help us out a little bit, the generations who’ve been here before? And just the way that I see this product, I think the way that Impossible has evolved, this is a product, this is a tool kit or rather, this is a tool for that tool kit. For the people who are asking for action on climate, for the people who are looking for solutions that are transformative, they’re not just these incremental tweaks to your supply chain. That’s why this was really created.
30:21 Rebekah Moses: So we’re in a zeitgeist of climate urgency and it’s good timing that the plant-based economy is really kind of growing at this exact time. You know food, meat, plants, whatever it is, food is so deeply emotional and cultural and significant for people in their daily life. There is certainly going to be a lot of angst around anything that is perceived to be driving scarcity or deprivation and that’s the opposite of what we’re doing as a company and I think the opposite of what the plant-based food movement is doing. This is about abundance. It’s not about restricting yourself from something, it’s not about telling people they can’t do it. It’s about providing a new option and letting consumers decide and become change agents. And it’s not about saying no, it’s about hey, here’s a better option, you can take it or leave it.
31:08 Paul Matzko: I’d like to return to a point that we alluded to in the interview. There are incumbent industries who want to see Impossible Foods and other meat alternatives fail. As you can imagine, it’s not in the individual interest of cattle ranchers or meat processors for competing products using a completely different supply chain to succeed, and normally that wouldn’t be a problem. May the best competitor in the marketplace win, but the meat industry is not a perfectly free market. There are government regulatory agencies on both the state and the federal level that are responsible for all those steaks and burger patties that end up on your plate. And traditional meat producers have been leaning on regulators to make life difficult for their competition. For example, last year the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association got the state legislature to pass a law making it illegal to call meat alternatives meat. A representative from the industry cartel said, “We want to make sure consumers know what they’re getting. So if a food was grown in a lab, we want the label to say that.” Let me call that logic what it truly is, that’s some concern trolling.
32:26 Paul Matzko: I no more believe that this law was motivated by a sincere unalloyed desire for consumer welfare, than I believe that consumers are so stupid as to be unable to distinguish between meat from animals and meat from plant protein. Give people a little credit. We aren’t complete and utter idiots all the time, but in the long run, these kinds of rear guard battles over captured government regulators will likely fail. There’s a long history of similar ultimately failed attempts, from big dairy banning margarine from being called butter or even being colored yellow at point of sale, to the more recent proposal that almond milk not be allowed to be called milk because “almonds can’t lactate”. It’s a sign of fear on the behalf of high bound incumbent interests, fear of a future which people have more better and freer choices. And until next time, have a burger and be well.
33:23 Paul Matzko: Thanks for listening. Building Tomorrow is produced by Tess Terrible. If you enjoy Building Tomorrow, please subscribe to us on iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you’d like to learn more about Libertarianism, find us on the web at www.libertarianism.org.