Billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates is urging all rich nations to shift away from environmentally destructive animal agriculture and toward plant-based and lab-grown alternatives to meat. This week, Gates released his new book How to Avoid a Climate Disaster in which he details the complex solutions to the climate crisis. Ahead of the book’s release, Gates spoke with MIT Technology Review about the innovation and action necessary to save the planet, including rethinking global food systems. When asked about whether all nations in the world could and should transition to alternatives to traditionally raised beef, Gates said, “I don’t think the poorest 80 countries will be eating synthetic [plant-based or lab-grown] meat. I do think all rich countries should move to 100-percent synthetic beef. You can get used to the taste difference, and the claim is they’re going to make it taste even better over time.” 

While Gates is skeptical about lab-grown meat becoming commercially viable, he says that plant-based companies such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have a road map, a quality road map and a cost road map, that makes them totally competitive [with animal meat]. As for scale today, they don’t represent one percent of the meat in the world, but they’re on their way.”

Gates on animal agriculture

Gates has been speaking out about the damaging effects of animal agriculture for some time, including in his long-running blog “Gates Notes.” As part of his efforts to fight climate change, Gates has invested in several companies that are poised to displace animal agriculture, including vegan brand Beyond Meat, fungi-based technology startup Nature’s Fynd, and cultured-meat company Memphis Meats. Through Breakthrough Energy Ventures—a fund that in addition to Gates, includes billionaires such as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Virgin founder Richard Branson—the Microsoft founder has also invested in food technology company Motif, which aims to help plant-based food producers reach larger demographics through its biotechnology platform.

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