On the Future of Food

Photo by  Dan Gold

Photo by Dan Gold

Last week, “The Fate of Food: What We’ll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World”, a book by Amanda Little was released. Media coverage by USA Today, Fresh Air (Terry Gross) and Rolling Stone included:

  • From USA Today: "Outside the United States and especially in emerging economies, the debate around technology and agriculture — including GMOs — is not about better labeling for corn chips, or even about corporate control of the food system, it's about progress and, ultimately, survival."

  • From Rolling Stone: “The broader category of “alternative meat” products in the United States has been soaring in recent years. The Silicon Valley start-up Impossible Foods has raised more than $350 million to push its product  ...retail sales of meat alternatives jumped 30 percent … 

  • “a dozen or more start-ups have begun to develop lab-grown beef, pork, poultry, and seafood. Among them, [Memphis Meats], Mosa MeatJustNew Age Meats, and the Israeli company Future Meat Technologieshave announced plans to release cultured meat products — from chicken cutlets to breakfast sausage  .. Finless Foods has been developing cultured bluefin tuna. … SuperMeat is formulating a special animal-free brew to replace fetal bovine serum 

  • CRISPR-ed meats are a fast-emerging trend in the beef industry. Cows genetically engineered without horns to eliminate painful aspects of slaughter … The recent success of plant-based meat products is also helping to pave the way for mainstream acceptance.”
     

  • From Fresh Air (Terry Gross), lightly edited: “I visited [AeroFarms] in Newark, N.J., that's located inside an old warehouse that was once a laser tag arena …  They grow leafy greens for now, but eventually other kinds of high-nutrient foods, on trellis structures, or these stacks of trays that go up about 30, 35 feet high. Metal trays. And the plants are not grown in soil but, rather, they're grown into a fabric. And the roots dangle down into a nutrient mist that is continually nourishing these roots.

  • “if you can have a solar-powered vertical farm or wind-powered or hydro-powered vertical farm then you can offset the fossil fuel inputs that go into that production … [plant production] won't be interrupted by seasons. And they won't be interrupted by bad weather or drought … it's a much more sort of reliable supply of food.”
     

OUR TAKE

  • Conservation, food security and climate change are among the factors driving innovation in the agriculture and food industries.  

  • For "alternative" products to have a material environmental impact, mass adoption by consumers is needed. This will require the participation of industrial scale players to drive down product prices.   

  • At some point, "alternative food" players will need to address the health issues associated with "ultra-processed" foods. (see last week's note)

  • As demand for alternative foods increase, food waste remains an issue. Little and others have mentioned that over 30% of all food produced globally is wasted.  

  • NOTEBeyond Meat, the only “pure play” alternative food in the US equity market, announced earnings on Thursday, with revenue of $40.2 million and a net loss of $6.6 million for the quarter. The stock was up 39% on Friday, with a $8.1 billion market cap.

Paul Dravis