Bruce Friedrich, executive director of The Good Food Institute, will speak during McDaniel College's annual Ridington Lecture at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 11. The free event will be held in the McDaniel Lounge in Westminster is open to the public.
Friedrich's presentation is titled "Seeds of Disruption: How Markets and Food Technology Will Save the World." Having held leadership roles at food advocacy organizations promoting plant-based alternatives to meat and clean meat — animal protein alternatives in which meat is grown from a single animal cell, thus eliminating the need for slaughter — he explains why these products are gaining popularity and how they will change how the world eats.
Friedrich is also managing trustee of New Crop Capital, a specialized private venture capital fund that invests in entrepreneurs whose products or services replace foods derived from conventional animal agriculture. He co-authored "The Animal Activist's Handbook," and has contributed to the Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Washington Post and The New York Times, among others. He has also appeared on MSNBC, Fox News and CNN.
The Carroll County Times recently caught up with Friedrich to discuss the upcoming lecture.
According to the most recent agricultural census completed in 2012 by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, there are 12,549 farms in the United States marketing their products through Community Supported Agriculture, including 119 in Maryland. Members pay an upfront subscription fee to farmers in return for a share of the season's harvest, which is usually provided weekly.
A: I am the Executive Director of The Good Food Institute (GFI), where our mission is to create a healthy, humane and sustainable food supply. To do this, we are focused on addressing the harms of conventional animal agriculture by harnessing technology and market-based solutions that build on the teachings of behavioral economics. In order to compete with animal products based on the factors that actually guide consumer choice — taste, price, and convenience — GFI works to make alternatives to conventional animal products as delicious, price-competitive, and convenient as possible. These foods include both plant-based alternatives as well as clean meat, dairy, and eggs, in which 100 percent real animal products can be produced outside of an animal, without the need for slaughter or factory farming. We work in the private sector, offering entrepreneurs and startups guidance, expertise, and access to experts. We work with government entities through statutory and regulatory lobbying and other work. We work in the academic sector with students and scientists who are interested in advancing plant-based and clean meat.
We are taking ethics off the table for consumers by making the sustainable and humane choice the easiest and most delicious choice.
Q: What are you planning to focus on during your lecture?
A: As populations and incomes rise throughout the world, more and more environmental scientists and economists are asking how the world will support its projected population of 9.7 billion people by 2050 and how governments can meet the climate change goals they committed to in the Paris Agreement. Venture capital firms, entrepreneurs, and major corporations are rising to the challenge, innovating and marketing plant and cultured alternatives to meat, dairy, and eggs that are cleaner, safer, and more sustainable than their outdated, animal-based counterparts.
So I will discuss why animal protein alternatives are gaining popularity with the biggest tech investors in Silicon Valley, including Bill Gates, Biz Stone, and Sergey Brin; how slaughter-free meat will change how the world eats; and, why the future of protein is directly linked to the future of the planet.
Q: Why do you think animal protein alternatives are gaining popularity?
A: Consumers are hungry for these alternatives, and as more and more companies meet that latent demand with delicious options, this market will continue to grow. In fact, Lux Research predicts that alternative proteins will command a third of the protein market by 2054; we expect them to do much better than that.
Several major players in the food industry have realized we are in the early days of a major shift and have bought their way into the market in order to capitalize on that. Tyson Foods, the largest meat producer in the United States, just invested in meat-replacement startup Beyond Meat as a way to begin exploring alternative proteins and protect their business from the material risks associated with an over-reliance on factory farming. When the multi-billion dollar food conglomerate Pinnacle Foods purchased plant-based meat company Gardein for more than $150 million, their CEO said what GFI is convinced of, that plant-based meats are in the early stages of a macro-trend, similar to the way soy and almond milk changed the dairy category.
Q: What are you hoping listeners will learn from or get out of your lecture?
A: What I hope listeners take away from this lecture is a sense of excitement about the future and inspiration to be a part of this shift and to help us speed the transition away from animal agriculture and towards plant-based and clean alternatives. By working to transform the food system, we have the power to mitigate so many crises affecting the world today: environmental degradation, climate change, food security, human health, and animal protection. I hope that anyone who is considering ways to affect change for any of these issues discovers a new, powerful path to do so and gets involved. A great place to start is our Resources page (http://www.gfi.org/resources) as it provides job opportunities (not only with us, but with other companies supporting our mission), links to news articles, informative blogs, white papers, and more. We try to be a one-stop-shop for plant-based and clean meat technology with ideas and opportunities for everyone, not just scientists and entrepreneurs.
Q: What is one change people could make to eat more sustainably?
A: Obviously people can eat less meat — that's pretty easy. But much more important is for people to educate their friends, family, key policymakers, corporate executives, and so on. Changing our personal decisions is great, but real power resides with changing as many others as possible, and then the entire system. For readers who want to support The Good Food Institute's efforts, please sign up for our email list at GFI.org.