There are many issues that impact upon climate change, but few as negatively as livestock. It’s estimated that livestock produces 18 per cent of all "man-made" greenhouse gas emissions – making it a bigger contributor to global warming and environmental degradation than all forms of transportation.
Realising the folly of the world’s conventional meat consumption, I was compelled to give up beef a few years ago. The main reason for my decision was rainforest degradation, and my eyes were also open to farming and slaughterhouse practices. I quickly found that I didn’t miss beef at all – there are so many alternatives that it didn’t really affect my meal habits.
I know that giving up beef (or other meats) isn’t the path for everyone, so I have remained supportive of the search to find a sustainable way to feed the world’s population without continued negative impact upon the environment.
Richard Branson dinner
Which is why I’m thrilled to announce that I have invested in Memphis Meats. A clear leader in the clean meat space, Memphis Meats are developing a way to produce real meat from animal cells, without the need to feed, breed and slaughter actual animals.
The clean meat food system is safe, good for the planet and animals, and satisfying to consumers. At scale Memphis Meats expect to have a much better calorie conversion; use a lot less water and land; produce less greenhouse gases, and be less expensive than conventional meat production. And it’s a huge step forward for animal welfare.
Clean meat isn’t the only food system innovating and reinventing the way we feed the world. Plant-based proteins that taste as good if not better than meat are rapidly growing, so much so that the meat and dairy substitutes industry is predicted to be worth $40 billion by 2020.
Like clean meats, the adoption of plant-based proteins instead of conventional meats could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change. What’s more, they could lower the cost of foods in developing countries, where food is scarce.
Former CEO of McDonald's, Don Thompson, believes in the movement so much that he has joined the board of advisors for plant-based proteins start-up, Beyond Meat. Now that’s an endorsement, and an indication of what’s to come.
I believe that in 30 years or so we will no longer need to kill any animals and that all meat will either be clean or plant-based, taste the same and also be much healthier for everyone. One day we will look back and think how archaic our grandparents were in killing animals for food.
It’s exciting to see these products and industries take flight. They are a great example of how business is working to address the world’s biggest challenges – and proof that business can and should be a wonderful force for good.