by Mary Harrington
Monday, 21
February 2022
Analysis
10:00

Bill Gates wants you to eat artificial meat

The green revolution is coming — for everyone except the billionaires
by Mary Harrington
Credit: Getty

The human population is predicted to peak somewhere between 9.7 billion and 11 billion, depending who you ask. But how to feed them all? The answer, as economic leaders like to tell us at every opportunity, is more non-meat protein: bugs, plants or things grown in vats.

Now, Wired reports that former NASA scientists in California are using bacteria to pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, then fermenting it to create protein powder for processing into a ‘meat’ substitute.

The result, claims Kiverdi, is a carbon-neutral, sustainable, animal-free protein alternative that’s massively scalable: the solution to the increasingly urgent challenge of how to produce enough protein for all those billions.

The problem this company seeks to address is real. Protein is a key building-block for human health; no wonder that global meat consumption has more than quadrupled since 1961, and is growing most swiftly in low and middle-income countries. Where it’s possible for meat to go from a luxury to a staple, people want it to.

But the boom in meat production has been achieved largely by industrialising animal farming — a practice with grave environmental consequences. Unlike pastured animals, factory-farmed ones need a lot of feed, which must be grown, and this drives deforestation. Where an old-fashioned mixed farm would plough animal manure back into the soil, manure on an intensive farm is a waste product linked to a number of pollution issues. Intensive farming is also carbon-intensive, as well as being a key incubator for antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

So far, ideas for solving these side-effects of industrialisation have tended to involve even more industrialisation, and often considerable animal cruelty: see for example this 12-storey Chinese pig farm, which clamps down hard on disease and pollution — at the cost of nearly every natural porcine need or behaviour. Others argue that problems created by the industrial paradigm can’t be solved by remaining within it, and what we need is more holistic ‘regenerative agriculture’.

What, though, if the ‘regenerative’ approach doesn’t produce so much, meaning a green paradise simply doesn’t generate enough food to feed everyone? Is fake meat grown in vats the solution? Bill Gates thinks so: he argued in 2021 that rich nations should shift entirely to artificial meat.

But if the eco-utopian argument obscures some problems of scale, the Gates one obscures others of social class. For example, studies show poor people now eat more meat than rich ones, as a proportion of overall diet, a shift that perhaps explains why billionaires now view meat-eating as fair game for curbing in the name of a green future.

When the EU moved in 2021 to impose ‘green’ taxes on aviation, it was widely noticed that an exemption was made for private jets. And as we move into an era of ‘green’ meat politics, it’s noteworthy that Bill Gates is now America’s largest single owner of farmland — even as he pushes fake meat for the masses.

Reading between these lines, it’s plausible that what we face isn’t moving away from the horrors of factory farming toward either lab-meat or regenerative agriculture. Rather, what we’ll see (like the restriction of aviation to the ultra-rich) is both, depending on social status. Vat-meat for the masses; and ethically raised, environmentally sustainable steak from the Bill Gates eco-pasturelands for those that can afford it.

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George Glashan
George Glashan
3 months ago

The answer is obvious, the time has come to eat the 1%. Now to be fair there’s not much meat on Bill but as the old saying goes :
teach a man to be a trillionaire and he’ll plunder the resources of the world for his own enrichment for a lifetime. Give a man a trillionaire to eat and he’ll feast for a week.

Last edited 3 months ago by George Glashan
Justin Clark
Justin Clark
3 months ago

“Sadly”…. https://twitter.com/tatianaschild/status/1495722490395561985?s=20&t=2kEP_grelhocG9LmpvzaSQ
Bill Gates is not a:
– doctor
– scientist
– epidemiologist
– virologist
He is an investor.

Jennifer Chavez
Jennifer Chavez
3 months ago
Reply to  Justin Clark

Smart investors look at what’s going to come in the future and try to get out in front of it. Gates is no madman investor–he has entire teams of the sorts of people you mention advising him on what is coming in all their areas of specialty.

Justin Clark
Justin Clark
3 months ago

Jennifer, what’s more important than Money?
It’s Power.
Google WEF Young Leaders – Trudeau, Jacinda, Tony Blair, Bill Gates, Macron etc. This is not about Health nor about Climate Change. It’s about Power.
Google CBDCs and watch youtubes from Rebel Capitalist / George Gammon, Joe Rogan (yep), Russell Brand… It’s about Power.
I’ve never been more concerned in my life for the collapse of currency and the positioning of digital currencies that prevent you from buying based on your political/medical/financial status…
With great technology comes great responsibility / or evil.

Last edited 3 months ago by Justin Clark
Jennifer Chavez
Jennifer Chavez
3 months ago
Reply to  Justin Clark

You’re erasing the health and climate issues with the wave of a hand but of course that’s not how reality works. These things happen, AND people in power often figure out how to profit from those changes, AND they often manage to change the course of the future.

Justin Clark
Justin Clark
3 months ago

that’s a fair point made. I’m becoming less convinced that “those people” actually care for the planet and its challenges though… I think they’re telling us what we want to hear.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 months ago
Reply to  Justin Clark

“Google WEF Young Leaders – Trudeau, Jacinda, Tony Blair, Bill Gates, Macron etc. This is not about Health nor about Climate Change. It’s about Power.”

Good for you noticing this – so few do – none of the sheep know anything at all as their world is becoming a dystopia all about them. George Gammon is a bit of entertainer really, he is a Barnum and Baily Showman out to make his next multi-Millions, but in the process he does show a lot of hidden truths.

His ‘White Boards’ are vital to watch to get some basics in economics.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
3 months ago

You’re right, no doubt, about Bill Gates being no madman investor, but you’re wrong about him trying to get in front of the future. Someone that rich is capable of shaping the future. Often those who ‘anticipate’ future trends are those trying to sell their solution to a larger public.

Jennifer Chavez
Jennifer Chavez
3 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

It needn’t be either-or, and I think it’s often both.

Henry Haslam
Henry Haslam
3 months ago
Reply to  Justin Clark

He is a successful businessman and a philanthropist. He also knows how to read, and there is a plentiful literature about alternative diets

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 months ago
Reply to  Henry Haslam

He is one of the 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse. War, Pestilence, famine, and death….

I think we all know which one Gates is, and his horse is Fauci……

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 months ago
Reply to  Justin Clark

He uses his ability to invest Trillions in order to MANIPULATE the world into the direction he wishes, which is new-Feudalism.

Gates does not invest to make more money – he has more than Croesus, he uses his $ as a form of power to conquer more and more power, what Cyrus can conquer him now? Unless the combined WEF and IMF were to turn on him he will become god like in his power.

Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
3 months ago

When humans went from hunter gatherer to farmer their diet took a major hit. They went from eating a thousand different species plants and animals to just a handful. I think if we remove meat from our diet it will be another major setback. I think it will be a nutritional disaster.
I seem to remember it wasn’t too long ago that we had huge stockpiles of unwanted food in warehouses around the EU, wine lakes, butter mountains, great grain silos with over produced wheat.
It’s also worth pointing out that a lot of “Waste” from human food production goes to feed livestock. Almost all soya is pressed for oil. Most of that oil goes into processed foods for humans and much of the rest goes to making bioethanol. They fibrous waste from the pressing which humans can’t eat goes into animal feed. Cows are great processors of fibre. This applies also to oil seed rape and sugar beet. The waste from the production of bioethanol from various plants also goes into livestock feed.

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 months ago

Or we could implement Jonathan Swift’s ‘modest proposal’. Reduced population and plenty of meat – result!

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

We already introduced Swift’s ‘Big End/Little End’ cultural wars: Trans, Gender, Race, Crime, Police, etc – to break up society so all may be devided and conquered.

Mark Backlund
Mark Backlund
2 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

I appreciate your humor, and you’re making the point I wanted to make as I read this thread: As long as we keep focusing only on the “supply” side of feeding the planet, we’re going to either lose altogether or at least create a horribly dystopian planet on which we’re supposed to “live”. Population stabilization or even reduction addresses the “demand” side of the equation. And I’m not talking about government mandates….I’m talking about f*ing common sense. Is it impossible for people in general to see the big picture, acknowledge that endless growth is really just another name for “cancer”, and restrain ourselves? The days of endless planetary plenitude are long gone. We live on a finite system. Why can’t we accept that, deal with it, and respond proactively?

jonathan carter-meggs
jonathan carter-meggs
3 months ago

I think addressing the “excess” CO2 issue by removing it is the correct approach rather than inflicting pain on everyone unequally by using second order effects. However, what is the right level of CO2 and how can you be sure you wont overshoot and kill all the plants? Geoengineering is a science that we do not have control of and the balance nature offers us is not in our control either (clearly).

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
3 months ago

Overpopulation has been the big policy issue no one wants to talk about for over a decade now.
I never tire of bringing it up in conversation with my left-leaning, fourth-level educated friends and colleagues. And they almost always shrug it off as either not feasible or not palatable enough to discuss in polite company.
Yet the simple fact remains that, without a technological miracle, 11 billion humans must choose to either eradicate poverty or save the planet from ecological disaster. It cannot do both.
(Plug for the excellent novel I wrote back in 2015 about overpopulation, which goes through all the arguments in a nice way. Oh yes, and it’s about a virus released in 2020. No kidding.)

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
3 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

37 reviews and no one stars. Have you got a big family?

Just joking – looks like an interesting premise, you’ve made a sale

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
3 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Do you know the worst part? The buggers in my family didn’t even buy a copy!
Cheers Martin – I hope you enjoy it.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
3 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

You might be amused to know that, on buying it, one of Amazon’s “recommended for you based The Hydra” was … The Ultimate Everton Trivia Book!!

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
3 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Not sure whether I should be flattered or offended.

Mark Backlund
Mark Backlund
2 months ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

You’re my man, Graham! I agree totally.

Robert Russell
Robert Russell
3 months ago

I guess Rebanks is busy. If you get rid of real meat — cows, sheep, goats, emus, etc. –then where do you get the nitrogen that soils need to continue to produce all those non-meat goodies we should eat instead? The only available answer is ammonium nitrate, which comes from (drum roll)…petroleum.
Mind you, I am not talking about CAFOs, which are wicked and evil and should be ended, mostly because they treat animals as things rather than creatures, but also because they cause a good thing — animal manure — to become a bad thing when too much of it is put in too small a space. The reality, however, is that there has never been a long-lasting agriculture that did not include animals.
If you want to substitute ‘sustainable’ for ‘long-lasting,’ then go ahead, but the reality is either oil or shit, and only one of them is going to keep on keeping on.

Mark Backlund
Mark Backlund
2 months ago
Reply to  Robert Russell

I think the nitrogen cycle was in pretty good shape before humans became the dominant species. It doesn’t depend on industrial sized animal populations and certainly not on petroleum. There are MANY sources of nitrogen.

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 months ago

‘Vat-meat for the masses; and ethically raised, environmentally sustainable steak from the Bill Gates eco-pasturelands for those that can afford it’.
If we don’t want factory farming, and aren’t yet ready to cull a vast swathe of the human population, I think that’s the only way to go. Not worried about meat becoming an occasional luxury, although you won’t get me eating Kiverdi or bugs

John Montague
John Montague
3 months ago

Solyent Green……

Tom Blanton
Tom Blanton
2 months ago

Dear Ms Harrington,
Beef cattle are not raised in factories. Even the ASPCA admits, “Virtually all beef cattle are ‘grass-fed’ because they begin their lives on grass. ‘Grass-finished’ distinguishes those cattle who spend their lives eating grasses and are never sent to a feedlot.”
Please take the time to get the complete picture on this issue. A good place to start would be here.
Appreciate your articles. Keep up the good work.

Henry Haslam
Henry Haslam
3 months ago

A unnecessarily negative article. The average person in an industrialised country eats about twice as much meat as is healthy. Simply reducing our meat consumption would be good for our health and for the environment.
There’s a huge choice of healthy foods, from traditional vegetables though to insects, algae and lab-grown meat. With this range available, there’s no need to be negative and say we are being forced down any one particular route.

Jennifer Chavez
Jennifer Chavez
3 months ago

I’ve read the author’s prior articles touching on this issue and have been frustrated. So I’m am glad she finally acknowledges that the facts at hand scream out the inevitable conclusion, that meat is a major contributor to destroying water and soil on this planet and simply cannot continue unless we want to allow it to complete that destruction. Not to mention the profound cruelty of mass meat production. 
But Ms. Harrington only ends up complaining that wealthy people would continue to pay premium prices for the privilege of continuing to consume the most destructive products. Given that this has been the fate of over-exploited resources since time immemorial, it was hardly a hidden feature of the problem, or one that was invented by Bill Gates
What is the point of this complaining? Are middle class journalists really just going to continue writing pieces like this that serve no purpose but to make people feel jealous that the super wealthy may continue to have access to nonessential luxuries that the rest of us don’t? How is that constructive?

Last edited 3 months ago by Jennifer Chavez
Jason Smith
Jason Smith
3 months ago

Exactly. Couldn’t agree more

Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
3 months ago

I don’t think it’s fair to single out meat production as a particular evil. Arable farms with thousands of acres of monoculture crop, sprayed with artificial fertiliser, herbicides and pesticides and depleting the aquifers by pumping up water from underground, these also have their problems.
Grassland grazed and fertilised by cattle and sheep is a good habitat for birds, insects and small mammals and is also a good carbon sink.
I think we can produce food in a better way but I also think that meat production should be part of the mix.

Dana Jumper
Dana Jumper
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve Elliott

My animals have been the most productive resource to regenerate my small farm. What was mostly sand, weeds and shrubs has grown a rich topsoil layer in only a few short years. The bird population has exploded, honey bees are in abundance.
They taste good, too.

Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
3 months ago
Reply to  Dana Jumper

That makes two of us Dana.