The Good Food Institute: Deep Dive
This report was last updated in November 2023. Download the report here, or read the full text below.
The Good Food Institute (GFI) promotes plant- and cultivated meat-based alternatives to conventional livestock products through its science, policy, and corporate engagement workstreams. GFI is one of the top climate nonprofits selected by Giving Green in 2023.
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 livestock products to alternative proteins (APs), such as plant-based and cultivated meat, is one of the most promising pathways to decrease emissions from agriculture and land use. GFI is a nonprofit that seeks to make APs competitive with conventional meat in terms of price and taste. It supports AP development in the US and abroad.
We first recommended GFI in 2022 and continue to recommend GFI in 2023 based on its accomplishments, organizational strengths, and strategic approach. 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 APs 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.
We previously recommended GFI in 2022.
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.
How could GFI help address climate change? Livestock emissions include direct emissions from livestock, such as 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 does GFI 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.
What has GFI accomplished historically? We think GFI’s advocacy has helped increase public funding for AP R&D. Highlights include the €370 million EUR ($390 million USD) that European governments invested in AP R&D in 2022 alone. It has also achieved victories in several labeling law initiatives and established a talent and training network for the AP industry under its Alt Protein Project.
What’s new at GFI in 2023? GFI’s work in 2023 includes its role in securing millions in research and development funding for APs in the UK and EU. It also expanded the Alt Protein Project network from 36 universities in 2022 to 53. GFI is collaborating with climate-focused foundations and nonprofits to promote the role of APs as a solution for climate change, with a short-term emphasis on COP28.
What is GFI’s cost-effectiveness? In 2022, we developed a cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA) model as a rough plausibility check estimating 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. We have low confidence in this CEA, but generally view it as a positive input to our overall assessment of GFI. We did not update this CEA in 2023.
Is there room for more funding? GFI’s 2024 budget is $35 million (USD) for sustaining its core activities. As of September 2023, GFI had approximately $15 million still to raise for its goal of $48 million to seed its 2024 budget and part of its 2025 budget. If GFI were to meet its funding goals for expansion ($39 million total), it would prioritize expansion into research-strong countries and grow its core activities.
Are there major co-benefits or adverse effects? We think GFI’s co-benefits and adverse effects are tied to those of APs. Co-benefits include improved farm animal welfare, improved food security, and lowered health risks associated with livestock production; for example, the link from livestock to antibiotic resistance and pandemic risk is substantial and not well-understood. An adverse effect includes some uncertainty about the job transition 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.
Bottom line / next steps: We classify GFI as one of our top recommendations to address climate change. We believe donations to GFI 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 2024.
What is the Good Food Institute?
The Good Food Institute (GFI) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that seeks to make plant-based, cultivated, and fermented alternative proteins (APs) competitive with conventional proteins in terms of price and taste. GFI aims to transform consumption patterns by turning APs into a default choice.
GFI is headquartered in the US and has independent affiliate offices in the Asia Pacific region, Brazil, Europe, India, and Israel.[3,4] GFI chooses its locations based on government funding for R&D, strong research ecosystems, and potential for corporate engagement. GFI launched in 2016. Giving Green previously recommended GFI in 2022.
What does GFI do?
GFI has three focus areas: science, policy, and industry. GFI spends most of its funding on its science workstream, which includes regranting. Its policy workstream receives the second-most funding. A description of its focus areas follows:
Science: GFI identifies research gaps, regrants funding, advocates for open-access research, and convenes scientists to advance R&D. GFI delivers catalytic grants that enable early data collection, which helps scientists outside of GFI apply for subsequent grants and de-risks research areas. Additionally, GFI’s science team provides scientific consultation to various government funding agencies. It also helps develop a talent pipeline for AP R&D by establishing university courses and providing guidance on establishing startups.
Policy: GFI’s policy activities include advocating for increased R&D funding for APs, fighting for fair label laws, and establishing a clear path to market for cultivated meat. It works closely with policy organizations on legislative work, such as strategizing on what to prioritize and timing for such activities. Increased R&D funding for APs is GFI’s top goal globally.
Industry: GFI’s corporate engagement includes supporting AP startups and building relationships with large agro-food companies and investors to encourage them to invest in AP products. Also, it conducts market research to develop reports and white papers, which it shares with industry stakeholders to support the AP sector as a whole.
How could GFI address climate change?
GFI theory of change
Over a quarter of the world’s emissions is due to the food sector. We estimate that livestock production is responsible for at least 53% of food-related emissions and note its climate impact is expected to increase as the world’s population grows and low-income countries become wealthier and consume more meat.
We think reducing livestock production could be an important lever for driving down emissions and could potentially free up some land for carbon sequestration. In our Food Sector Emissions report, we explain that APs could be a promising intervention for lowering meat consumption. Namely, our take is that making APs equal to or better than conventional meat could make them the default choice for more consumers and nudge them towards a more climate-friendly diet.
The GFI theory of change focuses on making APs more competitive with conventional meat by supporting AP R&D, securing public funding for R&D, and ensuring APs have a path to market (Figure 1). These inputs are intended to improve the price and taste of APs. We believe that this approach could help displace some demand for conventional meat and eventually lead to reduced livestock production, impacting emissions from land use, crop production, manure and pasture management, ruminants (e.g. cattle), and fuel use. Combined, these outputs reduce or avoid greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Figure 1: GFI theory of change for reducing or avoiding GHG emissions.
We examine the evidence for how well GFI executes its inputs in the sections below.
Supporting AP R&D
GFI has awarded 82 grants since 2019 across 17 countries, totalling over $13 million (USD) in open-access research support. According to GFI, of its grantees who both received initial support and follow-on government funding, an initial $1.8 million in support catalyzed $16.9 million in subsequent government support. Additionally, GFI’s Alt Protein Project has established student groups in 53 universities and its university presence continues to grow, supporting a talent pipeline for APs. GFI's grants and commissioned research aim to make knowledge about APs accessible to everyone, especially when it might otherwise be held as private intellectual property.
According to GFI, it engaged in policy efforts, including lobbying, in 2021 and 2022 to encourage the establishment of an interagency working group that would coordinate and support AP R&D throughout the federal US government. The US House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee directed the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to establish this interagency working group in its FY23 report. In late 2023, the committee gave OSTP the same direction again in FY24 appropriations, signaling to the White House the strength of Congress' will. If passed, this could streamline research and help establish APs as a US research priority.
In 2023, GFI has increased its efforts to promote APs as a climate solution worldwide. For example, they are collaborating with a coalition of organizations, including major climate funders and nonprofits, with the common objective of highlighting the significance of APs as a climate solution in international discussions, with a particular emphasis on COP28 in the near term. We think these activities are indicative of GFI’s convening power, which we believe helps with policy advocacy.
Securing public funding for AP R&D
GFI’s advocacy has helped increase public funding for AP R&D. Highlights include the €370 million EUR ($390 million USD) that European governments invested in AP R&D in 2022 alone. We think these advocacy wins are likely shared between GFI and many other organizations, although we think GFI has been a key driver and convener. GFI’s other advocacy successes include influencing the Israeli government to set APs as an R&D priority. For example, the Israeli Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology’s plans to distribute research grants to priority areas including APs. According to GFI, the government will use GFI Israel’s Alternative Proteins National Policy Plan as a roadmap for its national foodtech policy plan.
To the best of our knowledge, GFI was the only nonprofit organization that played a role in the California government allocating $5 million to AP research in 2022. It was also among the two nonprofit organizations that assisted with the $5.5 million allocated in the federal budget to the US Department of Agriculture for AP research.
In the US, GFI has good working relationships with partners across the executive and legislative branches, which probably increases the likelihood of its success. We also note that GFI’s former Chief of Staff now works as the Deputy Under Secretary for the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Research, Education, and Economics mission area, which includes the Office of the Chief Scientist and key USDA research funding agencies.
Ensuring a path to market for APs
Policymakers in various countries have introduced bills restricting AP producers from labeling their products with meat and dairy terms, protecting the interests of livestock producers and potentially reducing APs’ competitiveness. We believe that GFI’s work at the legislative, executive, and judicial levels has helped defeat some of these label laws in the EU and US. GFI’s legal wins in 2023 and 2022 includes the narrowing of a Louisiana state law prohibiting companies from using meat-related terms on APs and a ruling declaring a similar Arkansas state law as unconstitutional.
Our impression is that GFI has also helped clarify cultivated meat’s pathway to market. For example, GFI directly advocated for USDA and the US Food and Drug Administration to use standard processes applicable to conventional meat products in the existing regulatory system. GFI also promoted the establishment of fair labeling requirements as both agencies collaborated in regulating cultivated meat. We think using an existing regulatory framework has helped cultivated meat come to market sooner and can help boost consumer confidence, while giving USDA authority over labeling can help guard against delayed approval due to state-level labeling requirements. In November 2022, GFI was also featured in a substantial amount of media coverage related to the US Food and Drug Administration’s first ever approval of cultivated meat. We think this media coverage is indicative of the regulatory expertise and advocacy that GFI has brought to the AP sector.
GFI’s strategic support was acknowledged by JBS–the largest protein company in the world–when JBS announced its $100 million commitment for cultivated meat. In addition to spurring innovation, this commitment could expand cultivated meat production because JBS can produce and distribute more goods at-scale than smaller competitors. Additionally, we think building alliances with the largest meat producer in the world could decrease industry opposition or concern about the progress of APs.
Examining the assumptions behind the GFI theory of change
Below, we discuss and evaluate assumptions related to the GFI theory of change, meaning GFI’s mission of helping APs reach taste and cost parity with conventional meat and our take on how its mission could reduce emissions. For each of the assumptions, we rank whether we have low, medium, or high certainty about the assumption. Importantly, a number of the stages of the theory of change are not amenable to easy measurement or quantification or are expected to occur in the future but have not occurred as of yet. For each assumption, we assess whether the best available evidence, primary or secondary, suggests whether the assumption will plausibly hold or not.
1. Directly substituting some APs for their conventional meat counterpart would substantially reduce GHG emissions (high certainty)
We believe AP substitution may reduce emissions by lowering methane emissions from ruminants, decreasing nitrous oxide emissions from chicken and pig manure, and curbing emissions from land use change. Indeed, the highest-emitting plant-based meat has a carbon footprint at least half that of beef, while the average footprint for plant-based meats is lower than the average for both chicken and pork (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Emissions for meat and alternatives.
However, there is uncertainty on whether cultivated meat production will increase or decrease warming. Namely, cultivated meat production is energy-intensive and if it is powered by dirty energy sources, it would lead to long-lived CO2 emissions and could compare unfavorably against ruminants’ short-lived methane emissions over the long-term. We are optimistic about cultivated meat’s ability to reduce emissions because of its potential for freeing up land, but it will be important to decarbonize cultivated meat production to reduce its carbon impact.
Because AP production is still in its early stages, it is impossible to predict with certainty what its future production and GHG emissions will look like. However, it seems highly likely that investing in AP R&D will shift AP improvements and GHG reductions forward in time relative to the counterfactual. We will continue to monitor developments in AP production and will update our thinking with new information.
2. APs can become competitive with conventional meat in terms of taste, price, convenience, and health (medium certainty)
We believe it is highly unlikely that all consumers will perceive APs as perfect one-to-one substitutes for conventional meat. Instead, we believe APs can become similar enough that they will replace some meat consumption. For example, we are optimistic that APs’ taste and convenience will improve because companies are incentivized to boost these areas. We also believe APs’ price will go down as companies increase production and reach economies of scale. We are less certain about APs’ ability to compete with conventional meat in terms of nutrition. Namely, we have found it challenging to consider nutritional differences between plant-based meats and their analogues because of their different ingredients. For example, we are unsure whether plant-based meats can replicate conventional meat’s micronutrients and nutrient bioavailability, but we note plant-based meats often have fewer calories and less saturated fat than conventional meat and do not contain the harmful compounds found in some meats (e.g., nitrite and nitrate preservatives, antibiotics). In contrast, our impression is that cultivated meat could be made as nutritious or more than conventional meat because it replicates the same ingredients. We note some concerns about the perception of APs’ taste and health, which we describe in our section “Key uncertainties and open questions.”
In 2023, GFI informed us that it is putting together a global working group focused on nutrition and ultra-processing concerns. We think work in this area may improve APs’ competitiveness, but it is too early to tell.
3. Improvements in APs will eventually dent the consumption of the most highly-emitting livestock products (high certainty)
Based on current consumer preferences, we do not think APs will substantially reduce GHGs over the next five years. Instead, we think people currently purchase APs to supplement other sources of protein. For example, one study found that purchasers of plant-based meat often bought ground beef as well. This finding was consistent with another study where participants often substituted plant-based meat for white meat and fish but not red meat. At the same time, a different study found that respondents preferred beef to plant-based meat, but were more likely to eat plant-based meat in place of beef and chicken over pork, fish/seafood, or other proteins. This current inability to dent beef consumption has implications for climate change because of beef’s large carbon footprint (see Figure 2).
Our take is that APs still have wide scope for improvement and that more R&D support increases the likelihood that APs shift diets and livestock production later in the future. For example, refrigerated plant-based meat is almost twice as expensive as conventional fresh meat and this high cost is despite early evidence that people prefer conventional meat’s taste over APs’. Relatedly, we have not been overly worried about the decline in US retail plant-based meat sales in 2022 because we think these products can further improve. Our concern would grow if we saw a reduction in research funding for APs, as this might indicate a slowdown in innovation. However, that doesn't appear to be happening at the moment, and we note that GFI’s top goal globally is to accelerate research focused on closing the price and taste gap.
4. Demand for APs will lower livestock production (high certainty)
Global meat consumption will likely increase in the future and it is unclear to us how much APs will affect this trajectory. Our take is that increased AP production will likely lower livestock production because (1) market friction can make it hard and expensive to export meat around the world and (2) it is unlikely that an individual’s decreased meat consumption would cause an equivalent increase in meat consumption elsewhere. However, we have some concern that APs will not reduce demand for livestock products but will instead make demand for conventional meat more responsive to changes in price. If this is the case, people would purchase more conventional meat when it is cheap and less when it is expensive, and reducing livestock production at equilibrium would require additional measures (e.g., education and advocacy to reduce demand, regulation and policies to increase cost). Thus far, we are only familiar with one model that estimates the impact of plant-based meat on cattle production. Lusk et al. (2022) estimates every 10% reduction in cost for plant-based ground beef alternatives decreases US cattle production by 0.15%. In turn, this reduces emissions by about 1% when including land-use change. The study’s authors note this outcome is not static and that APs could have a greater impact in the future as they improve and if consumer preferences evolve. Ultimately, we believe there still needs to be more research given how little real-world data there is on how consumers substitute APs for conventional meat within the US and abroad.
5. Price and taste are important factors behind food choice (high certainty)
According to Rethink Priorities, the origins of price, taste, and convenience as the three most important factors for AP adoption have been somewhat unclear. It is possible that emphasis on these factors could have been based on a misinterpretation of minimal evidence. Indeed, food choice is complex and depends on various interacting cues, such as perceptions of the food and sociocultural factors.
If price, taste, and convenience are not essential factors behind people’s food choices, AP research focusing on those factors may be less impactful than expected. However, experts we have spoken to have said these factors, in addition to health, are probably among the most important motivators. One funder of animal welfare causes said that increased availability, improved products, and better marketing have most likely driven changes in demand for APs. Our take is that solely focusing on price, taste, and convenience flattens the complexity of food preferences, but these factors are likely still important for reducing meat consumption. We support Rethink Priorities' suggestions to fill gaps in data, including studies on how APs affect conventional meat displacement, comparing them to other methods of reducing meat consumption, and conducting taste tests to track improvements.
6. AP-related legislation will continue to pass under a more conservative US government (medium certainty)
Our impression is that APs receive more political support from the left than the right. We are cautiously optimistic that AP-related federal legislation will continue to pass after the 2022 midterm elections–which shifted some power from Democrats to Republicans–because AP-related bills have previously been introduced with bipartisan support. Indeed, in December 2022, a bipartisan group of lawmakers reached an agreement to appropriate $5.5 million for USDA AP research. GFI is explicitly focused on building bipartisan support; for example, GFI’s principal policy factsheet for legislators includes a pull quote from former Georgia Governor and Trump agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue. Additionally, GFI engages with state-level and executive branch policymakers (e.g., at the Departments of Agriculture & Energy, and at the National Science Foundation), which offer other avenues for getting AP policies passed and research funded.
We note there are opportunities for shoring up more political support for APs. For example, a joint report between GFI and the Breakthrough Institute describes policy support for AP R&D as an opportunity to “foster economic development and job growth in the face of growing international competition,” and GFI commissioned and worked closely with the Center for Strategic & International Studies on a report that calls for government funding for APs, comparing the industry’s potential to biopharmaceuticals and advanced chips for artificial intelligence. We believe this framing could appeal to conservative policymakers. However, meat consumption is connected to the culture wars in the US and we believe political support for APs could become more polarized in the future.
7. GFI is able to fulfill its mission as it grows its operations (high certainty)
GFI has grown substantially over the past few years, growing from a total revenue of about $8 million in 2018 to a core budget of $35 million in 2024. Rapid growth tends to be a risk factor for organizations, especially if the organization does not have the operations and resources to support it. Our understanding is that warning signs for unsustainable growth include decreased focus on strategy and lower quality work. We believe that GFI can sustain its current growth and we believe its increased number of wins has been commensurate with its growth.
What is GFI’s cost-effectiveness?
In 2022, as a rough plausibility check, we developed a model to estimate the cost-effectiveness of GFI’s historical work on increasing funding for AP R&D (in terms of dollars per metric ton of CO2-equivalent reduced or avoided). The cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA) model estimates the effect that GFI’s existence from 2016 to 2022 is expected to have on emissions from 2022 onward absent any additional work from GFI after 2022. We use this outcome as a proxy for the cost-effectiveness of a 2022 donation to GFI. This CEA includes highly subjective guess parameters and should not be taken literally. In particular, we estimate the impact of GFI’s activities on changing the probability that a high-innovation scenario would occur instead of a low-innovation scenario and estimate what cultivated meat production may look like from 2020 to 2040. Overall, we guess GFI could plausibly be within the range of cost-effectiveness we would consider for a top recommendation. We have low confidence in the ability of our CEA to estimate GFI’s general cost-effectiveness, but view it as a slight positive input into our overall assessment of GFI. See below for a high-level explanation and the model itself for additional notes and citations.
Costs: We use GFI’s budget from 2016 to 2022.
Avoided GHGs: Our analysis relies on results from an existing model that focuses on finding the difference in emissions between low- and high-innovation AP scenarios. We adjust our own model’s estimate for livestock production upward under the high-innovation scenario because we believe the original model’s estimates for cultivated meat production may have been too optimistic. Also, because the original model’s low-innovation scenario assumes a case where R&D is only driven by market forces, we adjust this scenario’s livestock production downward because APs already receive public funding and our best guess is that this will continue to be true. Using these new projections, we use available data to estimate a conversion factor between emissions and livestock production. We then use this factor to estimate the difference in emissions between the two scenarios based on our projections of livestock production.
Effectiveness: We estimate GFI changed the probability of AP R&D moving from low- to high-innovation by a small percentage between 0.1 and 1.5 percent. We assume a small percentage given the many players working in APs. We also assume GFI’s growing emphasis on international R&D would be as effective as its historical work and therefore did not adjust for the marginal donation going to international instead of US-based efforts. Next, we multiply this percentage by the difference in cumulative emissions between the two scenarios to calculate GFI’s expected value. We divide the expected value by GFI’s budget from 2016 to 2022 to estimate cost-effectiveness.
Results: Our best guess for GFI’s cost-effectiveness is $2.98 per metric ton of CO2-eq in expectation (range: $0.68 to $48). We also input our calculations into a Guesstimate model and found similar results. We have low confidence in the ability of our CEA to estimate GFI’s marginal cost-effectiveness (see “Key uncertainties and open questions”).
We did not update our CEA model in 2023.
Is there room for more funding?
GFI’s current funding status
GFI’s core budget is $35 million in 2024, which it would like to increase over the coming years (table 1). As of September 2023, GFI had approximately $15 million still to raise toward its goal of $48 million to seed its 2024 budget and part of its 2025 budget. GFI said that at its current funding levels, it will substantially slow organizational growth in several countries. Instead of growing across all of its offices, it will focus on growing in Europe and launching in Japan and Korea. In particular, GFI has prioritized expansion in research-heavy countries such as Korea, Japan, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Expansion would take the form of building separate GFI Japan and GFI Korea branches, and adding staff in Denmark and the Netherlands to its GFI Europe office. If GFI were to grow its existing core initiatives and expand internationally, its 2024 budget would increase to $39 million (Table 1).
Table 1: GFI’s self-reported budget projections
Core budget (including inflation)
Growth of existing core initiatives
International expansion: Europe, Japan, and Korea
GFI said that some projects that it sees as high priority for additional funding would include developing thought leadership papers with experts in food security, biosecurity, and global health, as well as hiring additional science and policy-focused staff in Japan, Korea, and EU countries.
GFI has received support from some major funders and influencers. For example, the Open Philanthropy Project’s Farm Animal Welfare program granted GFI $10 million for general support in 2021. Additionally, GFI was recommended by Animal Charity Evaluators as a top animal welfare organization from 2016 to 2020. The Bezos Earth Fund also awarded GFI $5.5 million in 2023 to act as a scoping partner for its food strategy; this funding is primarily focused on new projects rather than existing programs or staff. We think it’s likely that GFI will continue to receive funding from some subset of these funders, and will also gain more funders as it becomes more well-known. We think it could potentially increase its successful fundraising over the next one to three years, in which case we are unsure whether it can continue absorbing additional funding after that point.
Use of additional funds in 2023
We think that without the extra funds it received in 2023 from Giving Green-directed donations, GFI would have faced a more significant financial shortfall, potentially affecting its expansion plans. Additionally, GFI also said its Giving Green recommendation enhanced its advocacy for APs as a climate solution. We think it’s possible that this improved advocacy helped GFI attract more funding from climate-focused donors compared to what it would have received otherwise, but we are unsure.
Venture capital for APs and a continued need for philanthropy
Venture capital (VC) funding for APs reached around $880 million in 2022’s first quarter. This is below VC investment trends from 2021, which earned a record of $6 billion. Indeed, experts we spoke to said AP R&D still requires philanthropic support for the following reasons:
Inefficient spending: Private sector spending tends to go towards overhead and duplicative research protected as private intellectual property. In contrast to VC funding, philanthropy can fund open-access research without a profit motive.
Risk protection if private sector spending dips: According to experts we spoke to, VC interest in plant-based meats may wane as the field matures because VCs often prefer funding novel ideas over infrastructure. Additionally, investors may be alarmed by the plateau in US plant-based meat sales between 2020 and 2021.
Are there major co-benefits or adverse effects?
We think GFI’s potential co-benefits and adverse effects are directly related to those of APs. We briefly list these below:
Improved farm animal welfare: Livestock raised in industrialized settings often suffer inhumane conditions. Therefore, shifting demand away from livestock to APs could reduce farm animal suffering.
Lowered health risks associated with livestock production: Livestock production facilities increase some health risks for its workers and people who live nearby. APs could potentially lower these health risks by disrupting livestock production. Similarly, fewer workers may be harmed if AP production is physically safer than livestock production.
Lowered antibiotic resistance: Humans can come in contact with antibiotic-resistant bacteria during animal slaughter and from contact with contaminated materials. Our impression is that reducing the amount of livestock treated with antibiotics could lower the risk of antibiotic resistance.
Reduced water usage and improved quality: Studies suggest that APs use less water and have less of an impact on water quality (e.g., eutrophication) than conventional meat.
Reduced land impacts and potential biodiversity gains: Our impression is that preventing land use change (e.g., freed-up land that would otherwise be converted for pasture or feed production) could mitigate some biodiversity loss.
More resilient supply chain and increased food security: It is plausible that compared to conventional meat, APs are more resilient to global shocks because they have a shorter supply chain.
Socioeconomic implications of shifting away from traditional livestock production: A major shift away from traditional livestock production would likely impact people’s livelihoods. For example, scaling APs would shift the labor workforce “from one largely based on farmers, farmworkers, meat processors, and veterinarians, to one based on chemists, cell biologists, engineers, and factory and warehouse workers.” Overall, we think ramped-up AP production probably decreases some types of jobs and increases others, but we are unsure about the net change in jobs and where these jobs will be located.
Agri-food industry consolidation: Our understanding is a small number of companies hold most of the power in the US agri-food industry. Compared to interventions focusing on transformative change, AP production may reinforce current food system dynamics, although GFI responds that this is a strong argument for public sector funding, which is likely to create a broader ecosystem of participants.
Continued geographical power disparities compared to interventions that prioritize the Global South explicitly: According to one report, “meat alternative industries could perpetuate economic and political power disparities between the Global North and South.” For example, most cultivated meat companies are owned by companies in high-income countries. However, we do not think low-income countries have necessarily been precluded from AP production. For example, APs can be produced in low-income countries and shipped elsewhere; we are under the impression that exporting conventional meat may be more challenging than exporting APs because freshness is more important for conventional meat.
Potential micronutrient deficiencies: Although some AP producers add iron, zinc, and vitamin B12 to their products, adding missing nutrients in isolation may underestimate the complexity and health benefits of eating whole foods.
Potential biodiversity loss: Some ingredients used in plant-based meats, such as coconut or palm oil, are grown in tropical areas that face deforestation. If mature forests are destroyed to grow coconut or palm oil plantations, this could lead to biodiversity loss. Potential deforestation from AP production would need to be considered against deforestation loss that would have happened from conventional meat consumption.
Key uncertainties and open questions
Our key uncertainties and open questions related to Giving Green’s theory of change for GFI are described below.
The rate of technological diffusion: The rates at which AP technology advances and diffuses are open questions. Crucially, cultivated meat faces steep techno-economic challenges, such as high capital and operating costs and barriers in bioreactor design.
Impact of APs on global livestock prices: We think it’s plausible that lower meat consumption in high-income countries could potentially reduce global prices such that meat consumption increases in low- and middle-income countries, but have not explored this thoroughly.
Perception of APs and its impact on demand: We believe APs have often been portrayed as less healthy, less natural, and more processed than conventional meat. We also think it is highly likely that players in the livestock industry will heighten that perception to reduce APs’ competitiveness. Additional factors that will impact APs’ competitiveness include cultural beliefs and values, which strongly influence consumer preferences, and regulatory hurdles. We believe these challenges are substantial and could stand in the way of increased AP consumption. People we have spoken to who work in APs are familiar with these issues and there are ongoing efforts to increase AP acceptance. Negative perceptions of APs have been less of a concern for us because we are more interested in reducing meat consumption than eliminating it entirely.
The carbon sequestration rate of freed-up land (e.g., former pasture and croplands): There will be some delay before people can restore land previously used for livestock production and before the land begins storing carbon. It is unknown how much of the freed-up land is usable for carbon sequestration, how much carbon can be stored in total, and how long carbon can be stored.
Bottom line / next steps
We classify GFI as a top recommended nonprofit addressing climate change. We believe GFI’s advocacy has helped secure tens of millions in public funding for APs and create an ecosystem of support around APs, accelerating improvements that could shift consumers to more climate-friendly diets. Though we generally view GFI as promising, research into the impacts of APs on climate is still in its early stages and the impact of APs on global livestock production is uncertain. Other key uncertainties include GFI’s influence on advancing the speed of innovation in the AP space, the rate of technological diffusion, and how quickly restored land can sequester carbon. We plan to continue to assess these uncertainties, and believe we will be able to substantially improve our understanding of the severity and importance of these uncertainties as GFI executes its strategies in 2024.
1. 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).
2. GFI has a 501(c)(4) entity but it is in its early stages and not yet operational. GFI said that it has not spent any money on it yet. 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.
3. GFI lists global affiliates in Asia Pacific, Brazil, Europe, India, and Israel. The Good Food Institute - “Global affiliates" n.d.
4. Headquarters: “With more than 100 team members across our U.S. team and five affiliate offices, we’re building a world where alternative proteins are the default choice.” "About GFI" n.d. Affiliate offices: “GFI advances critical work not just in the United States, but also through our affiliates in the Asia Pacific, Brazil, Europe, India, and Israel.” The Good Food Institute - “Global affiliates" n.d.
5. Giving Green correspondence with the Good Food Institute, 2022-11-01.
6. “In 2016, the year GFI was founded, we launched two alt protein startups and accelerated alternative protein innovation in the public and private sectors.” The Good Food Institute - “Year in Review 2016" 2016.
7. Giving Green correspondence with the Good Food Institute, 2022-08-25.
8. “The visualization shown here – based on data from the meta-analysis by Joseph Poore and Thomas Nemecek (2018), published in Science – summarizes food’s share of total emissions and breaks it down by source. Food is responsible for approximately 26% of global GHG emissions.” https://ourworldindata.org/food-ghg-emissions
9. Livestock emissions: We calculated livestock's greenhouse gas emissions by summing the percent contribution of livestock and fish farms, crops for animal feed, and land use for livestock to food sector emissions based on 2018 data. Our percentage is a lower bound for livestock emissions because it does not include supply chain emissions. Our World in Data - “Food production is responsible for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions" 2019. Increased demand: “Overall demand for agricultural products is expected to grow at 1.1 percent per year from 2005/2007-2050, down from 2.2 percent per year in the past four decades.3 Population growth, increases in per capita consumption and changes in diets leading to the consumption of more livestock products are the main drivers of such expected changes.” Food and Agriculture Organization - “World Agriculture Towards 2030/2050" 2012.
10. Sources of livestock emissions: Sources of livestock emissions include land conversion to accommodate animal grazing and crop production, methane emissions from ruminants (e.g., cattle), and manure management. Importantly, cattle production is a major driver of deforestation, which releases stored carbon into the atmosphere. Carbon sequestration: “Here we quantify the total carbon opportunity cost of animal agricultural production to be 152.5 (94.2–207.1) gigatons of carbon (GtC) in living plant biomass across all continents and biomes. We approximated the potential for CO2 removal in soil and litter as an additional 63GtC” Hayek et al 2020.
11. Although GFI focuses on improving the taste and price of APs, we believe that funding R&D can also improve APs’ nutritional value, and efforts that support the private sector can improve convenience.
12. "$13M+ in open-access research support, 82 grants awarded since 2019, 17 countries where GFI has funded research." The Good Food Institute, “Alternative protein research grants” n.d.
13. “Dr. Amy Rowat is one of several GFI grantees who secured follow-on government funding after initial grant support from GFI. Of those who received both, GFI’s $1.8 million in grant dollars led to $16.9 million in government support, a nine-fold multiplying effect.” The Good Food Institute, “2022 Mid-Year Impact Report" 2020.
14. Giving Green conversation with the Good Food Institute, 2023-09-18.
15. Giving Green correspondence with the Good Food Institute, 2022-11-01.
16. GFI’s advocacy for an interagency group: Giving Green correspondence with the Good Food Institute, 2022-07-09. Development of interagency group: “Accordingly, the Committee directs OSTP to establish an interagency group under the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) to provide recommendations on coordination and support of alternative protein research and development throughout the Federal Government.” US Government Publishing Office, “House Report 117-395" 2022.
17. Giving Green conversation with the Good Food Institute, 2023-09-18.
18. “GFI’s new report has found that the European Union and national governments have earmarked more than €477 million for foods such as plant-based and cultivated meat, which can reduce climate emissions by up to 92% compared to conventional meat. The international nonprofit’s latest State Of Global Policy report shows European governments are ramping up support for these more efficient ways of making meat, seafood, eggs and dairy, with €370 million invested in 2022 alone.” https://gfieurope.org/blog/europe-government-funding-poised-to-hit-half-a-billion/
19. “The selection criteria for the list of 14, determined by the council, evaluated factors such as Israel’s comparative advantages in certain sectors, its strategic needs as a developed country, its strength in R&D and position as a global innovation hub, and whether the specific sector needs government support and has a scientific component. The Ministry of Innovation, Science, and Technology will promote national programs in the prioritized areas and distribute some NIS 180 million ($52.4 million) a year in research grants with significant emphasis on these fields.” https://www.timesofisrael.com/food-energy-space-tech-in-top-5-of-israels-new-national-rd-priorities/
20. Giving Green correspondence with the Good Food Institute, 2023-08-23
21. California funding for APs: “Of the funds appropriated in this item, $5,000,000 shall be available on a one-time basis for the Berkeley, Los Angeles, and Davis campuses to support research and development of plant-based and cultivated meats.” University of California, Los Angeles, “Gavin Newsom and California Legislators Allocate $5 Million for Cultivated Meat R&D" 2022. Appropriations: “Following months of GFI engagement and just days before the end of the 117th Congress in December, a bipartisan group of lawmakers reached an appropriations agreement that includes $5.5 million for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to conduct alternative protein research. Building on past appropriations, this publicly funded research will help fill knowledge gaps, optimize input crops, and improve production processes.” The Good Food Institute, "Year in Review" 2022.
22. "Deputy Under Secretary, Research, Education, and Economics (REE), Nov 2022 - Present... The Good Food Institute, Chief of Staff Jun 2019 - May 2021," LinkedIn profile of Sanah Baig n.d.
23. European Union: “The Good Food Institute Europe, a nonprofit working to accelerate plant-based and cultivated proteins, called on national leaders on the Council of the EU to “clear up this mess” and reject restrictions on plant-based dairy products.” The Good Food Institute Europe, "European Parliament REJECTS veggie burger ban, but ‘ties the hands’ of plant-based dairy" 2020. US: “Representing Tofurky, The Good Food Institute, the ACLU of Arkansas, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund challenged Arkansas’s label censorship law, asserting that the statute violates the First Amendment.” The Good Food Institute, "Anti-market, unconstitutional, and unnecessary: An overview of food label censorship" n.d.
24. Louisiana: “The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled a Louisiana state law prohibiting meat terminology on food not derived from animal carcasses can be enforced, but it only applies to companies that are intentionally trying to deceive consumers. Lead plaintiff Tofurky and its co-plaintiffs the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Good Food Institute said Thursday the ruling is a win for their side because it narrows the law to companies that are overtly seeking to mislead consumers. In an email, Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Mike Strain said his office is pleased with the decision.” Food Dive, "Appellate court reinstates Louisiana plant-based labeling law, but narrows its scope" 2023. Arkansas: “The Arkansas state law prohibiting plant-based meat companies from using meat terminology on their product labels and marketing is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled late last month.
25. “USDA and FDA held a joint public meeting on to advance the conversation around clean meat regulation. GFI advocated firmly for a fair regulatory path to market under the existing regulatory structures. Our friends at JUST, Finless Foods, BlueNalu, UPSIDE Foods, and many others joined the conversation as well.” The Good Food Institute, “Level playing field and bright lines: GFI advocates for fair clean meat regulation at USDA & FDA" 2018. Giving Green also received further information from correspondence with GFI on 2023-11-02.
26. Consumer confidence: “If people don’t believe that cell-based meat products are safe, regulated, and healthy, then they’ll stick with slaughtered meat… That’s how the cell-based meat industry ended up actively working to convince the US government to step in and exercise its regulatory authority — and that’s why they were encouraged by the government’s announcement.” Vox, “The lab-grown meat industry just got the regulatory oversight it’s been begging for" 2019. Override state standards: “The USDA’s labelling authority overrides that of the states — states are not allowed to impose labelling requirements incompatible with the standards that the USDA puts forward.” Vox, “The lab-grown meat industry just got the regulatory oversight it’s been begging for" 2019.
27. “Alongside our advocacy for public investment in alternative protein research, GFI has been working toward regulatory approval for cultivated meat since our founding. In a defining moment for the future of our food system, in November of 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officially gave the green light to a cultivated meat product for the very first time. UPSIDE Foods completed FDA’s rigorous review for its cultivated chicken as part of the agency’s pre-market review process, laying the groundwork for cultivated products to be sold in the United States. GFI was featured in media coverage of this historic milestone in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, TIME, The Washington Post, NPR, and more.” https://gfi.org/resource/year-in-review-2022/
28. JBS’ support for cultivated meat: “The deal signals the company’s entry into the cultivated protein market, which consists of producing food from animal cells and includes investment in building a new production plant in Spain to scale up production. Along with the acquisition, JBS is also announcing the setting up of Brazil’s first cultivated protein research & development (R&D) center. In all, JBS will channel US$ 100 million to the two projects.” JBS, “JBS is entering the cultivated protein market with the acquisition of Bio Tech Foods and the construction of a plant in Europe'' 2021. GFI’s support: “JBS' entry into the cultivated protein market had the strategic support of The Good Food Institute, an entity that promotes plant and cell-based alternatives to animal products.” JBS, “JBS is entering the cultivated protein market with the acquisition of Bio Tech Foods and the construction of a plant in Europe" 2021.
29. We describe our certainty as low/medium/high to increase readability and avoid false precision. Since these terms can be interpreted differently, we use rough heuristics to define them as percentage likelihoods the assumption is, on average, correct. Low = 0-70%, medium = 70-90%, high = 90-100%.
30. “Even the lowest-emitting beef from dedicated beef herds (34 kg carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2e) and lower-emitting beef from dairy cow herds (15 kg CO2e) came in far above the highest-emitting tofu (4 kg CO2e) and plant-based meat (7 kg). Chicken and pork production emit far less CO2 equivalent than beef. And while there is some overlap (the lowest-emitting chicken [3.2 kg CO2e] and pork [6 kg CO2e] rival the emissions of the highest-emitting plant-based meat), the average emissions of tofu and plant-based meats are still lower than the average emissions of both chicken and pork.” Vox, “Yes, plant-based meat is better for the planet" 2021.
31. Figure: Vox, “Yes, plant-based meat is better for the planet" 2021. Data: Poore and Nemecek 2018 and Santo et al 2020.
32. Energy intensity: “Culturing meat in a lab is an energy-intensive process compared with conventional livestock production. While animals can naturally digest and absorb nutrients from grass and other foods, cultivated meat requires the production and processing of crops like corn and soy into amino acids and sugars.” The Breakthrough Institute, “Can Cultivated Meat Live up to Its Environmental Promise?" 2020. Comparison of short-lived methane to long-lived CO2: “Under continuous high global consumption, cultured meat results in less warming than cattle initially, but this gap narrows in the long term and in some cases cattle production causes far less warming, as CH4 emissions do not accumulate, unlike CO2.” Lynch and Pierrehumbert 2019. We note that GFI has responded to this study: The Good Food Institute, “Clean meat’s advantages over conventional meat are many and will grow over time” 2019.
33. “Plant-based meats generally have fewer calories and less saturated fat than animal-based meat. They have zero cholesterol and almost always contain fiber… Unlike processed meats (i.e., bacon or hot dogs), alternative proteins do not use nitrite and nitrate preservatives, which produce N-nitroso chemicals that can lead to bowel cancer… The production of alternative proteins does not require antibiotics.” The Good Food Institute, “Plant-based meat nutrition: the facts" n.d.
34. Giving Green conversation with the Good Food Institute, 2023-09-18.
35. “Of consumers who bought a PBMA, 14.51% did not purchase ground meat. Most households (85.97%) that purchased a PBMA also purchased ground meat at some point in the two year span; however, as will soon be noted, PBMA buyers tended to spend less on ground meat than non-PBMA buyers.” Neuhofer and Lusk 2022.
36. “Results show that PBMA [plant-based meat alternatives] is a complement for beef and pork while a substitute for chicken, turkey, and fish.” Zhao et al 2022.
37. Preference for beef: “While changing consumer perceptions or relative prices could cause more of a shift in future protein consumption, it appears that a majority of consumers currently prefer beef over plant-based proteins on many different aspects.” Taylor et al. 2022. Displacement: “A final set of past consumption questions provides insight into possible protein-substitution impacts. Specifically, those indicating they consumed plant-based proteins in the past month were subsequently asked: “Last time you consumed plant-based burger patties or ground crumbles, what would you likely have eaten instead if you did not have the plant-based option?” The primary protein sources comprising current main entrée meals were presented as answer options. The main take-away is that consumption of plant-based protein may have displaced beef (49%) and chicken (38%) much more than pork, fish/seafood, or other proteins.” Taylor et al. 2022.
38. Cost of meat: “In March 2022, refrigerated plant-based meat costs $8.14 per pound, while conventional fresh meat costs about $4.14 per pound.” Food Navigator, “Meat, chicken and seafood alternatives: Latest retail sales data shows slowdown" 2022. The study focused on chicken and burgers. Chicken: “On average plant-based chicken (PBC) was rated overall 2.7 points lower (on a scale of 1-9) than real chicken (2 points lower for product 386, 3 points lower for other three PBC products). The standard deviation of real chicken’s overall rating was 1.6, suggesting statistically significant underperformance of all but one PBC products (confirmed with t-test).” Burgers: “On average, plant-based burgers (PBBs) were rated 1.7 points lower (on a scale of 1-9) in terms of the overall “like” score than beef burger, with the exception of product 871, which was rated nearly the same as the beef burger. That said, none of the differences were statistically significant.” Food System Innovations, “Chicken and Burger Alternatives: Taste Test Results" 2019.
39. “Plant-based meat dollar sales decreased 1% and unit sales declined 8%.” The Good Food Institute, "2022 Plant-Based State of the Industry Report" 2022.
41. “For every 10% reduction in price or increase in demand for PBM, we estimate U.S. cattle production falls approximately 0.15%... For every 10% reduction in the price of PBM alternatives, we estimate that the global reduction in emissions is equivalent to 0.34% of U.S. emissions from beef production and 1.14% when including reduced land-use change emissions.” Lusk et al 2022.
42. Rethink Priorities report: Rethink Priorities, "Price-, taste-, and convenience-competitive plant-based meat would not currently replace meat" 2023. Price, taste, and convenience: GFI does not work on convenience explicitly because it believes that compared to philanthropy, the private market has a comparative advantage in improving APs’ convenience.
43. According to Jacob Peacock from Rethink Priorities, price, taste, and convenience may be the averaged results from a series of surveys. Averaged survey results do not accurately reflect an individual’s preferences. Additionally, some surveys only asked about a limited number of factors, and some survey results are stated preferences, not revealed preferences.
44. According to GFI, its Corporate Engagement team reviews and conducts consumer research to understand what motivates food choices and it uses these insights to inform its strategy. Giving Green correspondence with the Good Food Institute, 2022-11-01.
45. “There is insufficient empirical evidence to more precisely estimate or optimize the current (or future) impacts of plant-based meat. To rectify this, consider funding: Research measuring the effects of plant-based meat sales on displacement of animal-based meat. Research comparing the effects of plant-based meats with other interventions to reduce animal-based meat usage. Informed (non-blinded) taste tests to benchmark current plant-based meats and enable measurements of taste improvement over time.” Rethink Priorities, "Price-, taste-, and convenience-competitive plant-based meat would not currently replace meat" 2023.
46. We focus on the US because we are less familiar with the politics of APs in the other countries that GFI works in.
47. “...on April 30, 2021, Representative Dan Wolgamott (DFL-St. Cloud) and Senator Carrie Ruud (R-Breezy Point) introduced legislation (SF 2483 and HF 2583) that, if enacted into law, will invest in research and development to advance the plant-based food industry in Minnesota.” The Good Food Institute, “Sen. Ruud and Rep. Wolgamott Introduce First-Ever Bipartisan Legislation to Support Alternative Proteins" n.d.
48. “Following months of GFI engagement and just days before the end of the 117th Congress in December, a bipartisan group of lawmakers reached an appropriations agreement that includes $5.5 million for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to conduct alternative protein research.” The Good Food Institute, "Year in Review" 2022.
50. “An expansive and ambitious policy platform that can nurture a domestic alternative protein industry will foster economic development and job growth in the face of international competition while aligning with the longer-term aim of promoting climate-smart agricultural production.” The Breakthrough Institute, “American National Competitiveness and the Future of Meat" 2022.
51. “Increasingly, America’s meat-eating ways are being subsumed into our culture wars. It’s yet another sign of how polarized our country is and how hard this polarization makes tackling a catastrophic threat like climate change.” Vox, “Biden’s fake burger ban and the rising culture war over meat" 2021.
52. 2018 budget: ProPublica, “Good Food Institute" 2018. 2024 budget: Giving Green conversation with the Good Food Institute, 2023-09-18.
53. 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).
54. We describe our confidence as low/medium/high to increase readability and avoid false precision. Since these terms can be interpreted differently, we use rough heuristics to define them as percentage likelihoods our takeaway (i.e., [not] plausibly within the range of cost-effectiveness we would consider recommending) is correct. Low = 0-50%, medium = 50-75%, high = 75-100%.
56. Our take on cultivated meat production: We assumed that cultivated meat production would remain low through 2051 based on a report by Rethink Priorities. "Despite some variation, the majority of probabilities were for low production volumes. The aggregated probabilities from our panel include a 54% probability that less than 100,000 metric tons of cultured meat (where >51% of the “meat” is produced directly from animal cells) will be produced and sold at any price in a 12-month period before the end of 2051." https://rethinkpriorities.org/publications/forecasts-estimate-limited-cultured-meat-production-through-2050. Upward adjustment: We adjusted estimates for conventional livestock production upward by assuming that overall meat production would remain the same but cultivated meat production would remain low. Therefore, we adjusted cultivated meat production downward and assumed that the difference in meat production would be conventional meat production. For more information, please see Good Food Institute (GFI) CEA, 2022-09-14, sheet “Adjusted high-innovation scenario.”
57. We adjusted livestock production under the low-innovation scenario downward by assuming it would be the average between the low-innovation scenario and the adjusted high-innovation scenario. For more information, please see Good Food Institute (GFI) CEA, 2022-09-14, sheet “Livestock production.”
58. Giving Green conversation with the Good Food Institute, 2023-09-18.
59. Giving Green correspondence with GFI, 2023-11-02.
60. Giving Green correspondence with GFI, 2023-08-23.
61. Giving Green correspondence with GFI, 2023-08-23.
62. “Open Philanthropy recommended a grant of $10,000,000 over two years to the Good Food Institute (GFI) for general support, including its work promoting plant-based alternatives to animal products.” Open Philanthropy Project, “The Good Food Institute — General Support (2021)" 2021.
64. Bezos Earth Fund award: “Accelerating Alternative Proteins for a Sustainable Food System DATE AWARDED: 2/2023. AMOUNT GRANTED: $5.5M.” Bezos Earth Fund, "Accelerating Alternative Proteins for a Sustainable Food System" 2023. Restricted funding: Giving Green conversation with the Good Food Institute, 2023-09-18.
66. “And while the space raised a record $6.0 billion of VC funding in 2021, the $883.8 million raised in Q1 2022 is well below this trend, with the capital-intensive nature of these businesses potentially making it even harder to raise capital in the current environment.” PitchBook “Pitchbook Analyst Note: Alt-Protein Industry Advances Despite Costs and Red Tape" 2022.
67. US plant-based meat and seafood sales increased by 46% between 2019 and 2020, jumping from $957M to $1.4B. However, sales were roughly the same in 2021 as it was in 2020 (“Dollar sales of plant-based meat were flat in 2021 over 2020, which was a record year of growth”). Potential explanations for the plateau include pandemic impacts and inflation, which increased the cost of conventional meat and skewed comparisons between how much US consumers spent on conventional meat and APs. "A deeper dive into plant-based meat sales in 2021" 2022.
68. Animals are still included in cultivated meat production. For example, cultivated meat production calls for animal cells, which are biopsied from living or dead animals. Additionally, fetal bovine serum may be used to grow cell and tissue culture media, though FBS is extremely expensive and inclusion in final products would preclude cost-competitive production.
69. Health outcomes from living near livestock production facilities: “We reviewed the literature published since 2000 and identified four health outcomes consistently and positively associated with living near IFAP: respiratory outcomes, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Q fever, and stress/mood.” Casey et al 2015. Downstream pollution: “...the recent growth of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) presents a greater risk to water quality because of both the increased volume of waste and to contaminants that may be present (e.g., antibiotics and other veterinary drugs) that may have both environmental and public health importance. Based on available data, generally accepted livestock waste management practices do not adequately or effectively protect water resources from contamination with excessive nutrients, microbial pathogens, and pharmaceuticals present in the waste.” Burkholder et al 2007.
70. “For workers, too, plant-based processing factories like Rebellyous are much better places to be employed than slaughterhouses. Making “meat” out of pea protein or soy is far less dangerous and grueling than the worst slaughterhouse jobs, which require workers to break down carcasses in cold and dark factories, working shoulder-to-shoulder, a profession with some of the highest injury and mortality rates.” The Breakthrough Institute, “Out of the Jungle" 2022.
71. “The spread of ABR [antibiotic resistance] is possible along the food chain through direct or indirect contact. Direct contact occurs following immediate exposure of humans with animals and biological substances (such as blood, urine, feces, milk, saliva, and semen), and enhances the rapid and easy dissemination of resistant bacteria from host-to-host. Occupationally exposed workers such as veterinarians, farmers, abattoir workers and food handlers, as well as those directly in contact with them, are at high risk of being colonized or infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria” Founou, Founou, and Essack 2016.
72. Water usage and improved quality: “For reducing the use of and potential impacts on water, meat analogs may represent a viable alternative to processed meat products.” Fresán et al 2019. Water usage: “Based on our review of the available literature…, per 100 grams protein, the median blue water footprint of plant-based substitutes was 21 and 42% smaller than those of pulses and soy; 76, 77, and 89% smaller than those of farmed poultry meat, bovine meat, and pig meat; and two orders of magnitude smaller than those of aquatic animals raised in ponds, e.g., farmed shrimp and tilapia… By contrast, the median blue water footprint of cell-based meat was larger than those of all other foods considered in our review except for those of farmed pig meat and pond-raised aquatic animals.” Santo et al 2020. Water quality: “Limited data exists on how much plant-based substitutes exacerbate eutrophication, but existing research suggests they provide significant benefits over conventional meats… One study that modeled the hypothetical eutrophication potential of cell-based meat, based on inputs of soy hydrosylate and glucose and glutamine (both derived from corn), found it comparable to, or slightly lower than that of, conventional poultry production” Santo et al 2020.
73. ““Nearly one in three people across the world are plagued by food insecurity. Coupled with the impact of the continued geopolitical crises on the supply chain and food prices, there is immense pressure on the global food system,” says Ben Morach, a BCG managing director and partner. “Pivoting away from animal-based proteins will lead to shorter, more resilient, and potentially more local supply chains. Widespread adoption of alternative proteins can remove the risk of supply chain disruptions and play a critical role tackling climate change, with consumers playing a key part in propelling this transition.”” Boston Consulting Group, "The Transition to Alternative Proteins Continues, Accelerated by Consumers Motivated by Healthier Diets and Having a Positive Impact on Climate" 2022.
74. “A rapid transformation of the agricultural marketplace from farmed to cell-based meat production—and, to a lesser extent, plant-based substitute production—could entail a significant overhaul in the labor workforce involved in protein production, from one largely based on farmers, farmworkers, meat processors, and veterinarians, to one based on chemists, cell biologists, engineers, and factory and warehouse workers.” Santo et al 2020.
75. “Addressing concentration of power is all the more urgent in the ‘protein’ sector, where horizontal integration and huge capital influxes are rapidly reshaping the terrain and influencing public discourse.” iPES Food, “The Politics of Protein" 2022.
76. “Others have pointed out that since the vast majority of cell-based meat companies—as well as several plant-based substitute companies—are owned by agribusinesses or biotech startups headquartered in industrialized countries, meat alternative industries could perpetuate economic and political power disparities between the Global North and South” Santo et al 2020.
77. “The range of geographic dispersal is generally limited to Western centers of commerce such as the UK, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Canada, and Israel. The only non-Western located project is in Japan, which has been heavily integrated into Western capitalism for some time. China, India, Africa, and South America are absent.” Mouat, Prince, and Roche 2018.
78. “As whole foods contain hundreds-to-thousands of compounds that act synergistically to impact human health, adding synthetic nutrients to food sources often does not confer similar benefits compared to when these nutrients are ingested as phytochemically and biochemically-rich whole foods—whether it be plant or animal foods” Santo et al 2020.
79. “Low growth rate, metabolic inefficiency, catabolite inhibition, and shear-induced cell damage will all limit practical bioreactor volume and attainable cell density. Equipment and facilities with adequate microbial contamination safeguards have high capital costs. The projected costs of suitably pure amino acids and protein growth factors are also high.” Humbird 2021.