Good Food Institute: Recommendation

This report was last updated in November 2022.


The Good Food Institute recommendation summary


Giving Green classifies the Good Food Institute (GFI) as one of our top recommendations to reduce climate change. Currently, livestock emissions play an outsized role in food emissions and are expected to increase in the future. Our take is that shifting demand from carbon-intensive conventional meat to alternative proteins (APs), such as plant-based and cultivated meat, could lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. GFI is a nonprofit that seeks to make APs competitive with conventional meat in terms of price and taste. [1] It supports AP development through scientific research, policy advocacy, and corporate engagement in the US and abroad.



We recommend GFI based on its accomplishments, organizational strengths, strategic approach, and cost-effectiveness. We believe GFI has substantial room to grow in its three programmatic areas and across its various offices, and that it will increase the likelihood of alternative proteins going mainstream. Since AP production is still in its early stages, we plan to continue to monitor APs’ climate impact and look forward to following GFI’s efforts in this space.


For more information, see our GFI deep dive research report, a summary below, and our broader food sector deep dive overview.


  • What is the Good Food Institute? GFI is a nonprofit that seeks to make APs competitive with conventional proteins in terms of price and taste. It is headquartered in the US with independent affiliate offices in the Asia Pacific region, Brazil, Europe, India, and Israel. It was launched in 2016.

  • What does the Good Food Institute do? GFI has three focus areas: science, policy, and industry. Its science-focused activities include identifying research gaps, regranting, advocating for open-access research, and convening scientists. Its policy workstream includes advocating for increased federal funding for AP research and development, fighting for fair label laws, and establishing a clear path to market for cultivated meat. Its industry work includes supporting smaller AP startups and building relationships with large agro-food companies to encourage them to invest in AP products.

  • How could the Good Food Institute reduce greenhouse gases? Livestock emissions include direct emissions from livestock (e.g., methane release from cows) and indirect emissions, such as land use change for pasture or animal feed. Reducing livestock production could be an important lever for driving down these emissions and freeing up some land for carbon sequestration. Our impression is that making APs equal to or better than conventional meat could make them the default choice for more consumers. In turn, this could nudge them towards a more climate-friendly diet.

  • What is the Good Food Institute’s cost-effectiveness? As a rough plausibility check, we developed a model to estimate the cost-effectiveness of GFI’s historical work on increasing funding for AP research and development. We used this outcome as a proxy for the cost-effectiveness of a 2022 donation to GFI. Overall, we guess GFI could plausibly be within the range of cost-effectiveness we would consider for a top recommendation. [2] We have low confidence in this CEA, but generally view it as a positive input to our overall assessment of GFI.

  • Is there room for more funding? We think GFI could absorb additional funding, which would enable it to further grow its research and corporate engagement arms and expand to new countries. Our impression is that GFI has received increased attention in recent years. It is plausible that GFI will substantially increase its successful fundraising in the next one to three years, in which case we are unsure whether they will be able to continue absorbing additional funding.

  • Are there major co-benefits or adverse effects? Co-benefits associated with GFI’s activities include improved farm animal welfare and lowered health risks associated with livestock production. An adverse effect includes some uncertainty about the job transition (e.g., quantity, type, and location) that would happen if there were a major shift away from traditional livestock production.

  • Key uncertainties and open questions: Key uncertainties include how rapidly APs can be improved, future demand for improved APs, and potential challenges to APs’ competitiveness (e.g., supply chains, potential blockers from the livestock industry).

  • Bottom line / next steps: We classify GFI as one of our top recommendations to reduce climate change. We believe donations to GFI are within the range of the most cost-effective giving opportunities we’ve identified, and could additionally increase its organizational growth trajectory. We plan to continue to assess our key uncertainties, and believe that we will be able to substantially improve our understanding of the severity and importance of these uncertainties as GFI executes its strategies in 2023.


Donate to support GFI's vision of a world where alternative proteins are no longer alternative.


Endnotes


[1] GFI has 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) entities. As Giving Green is part of IDinsight, which is itself a charitable, tax-exempt organization, we are only offering an opinion on the charitable activities of GFI’s 501(c)(3) arm, and not on GFI’s 501(c)(4) entity. This is a non-partisan analysis (study or research) and is provided for educational purposes.


[2] As a heuristic to guide our research prioritization, we consider something to plausibly be within the range of cost-effectiveness we would consider for a top recommendation if its estimated cost-effectiveness is within an order of magnitude of $1/tCO2e (i.e., less than $10/tCO2e).