Americans have a love affair with meat. Many romanticize the sizzle of a steak, the iron-pink bleed of a medium-rare burger, and the imagined farm they came from.
It’s a love that has come at a cost: An enormous industrialized livestock system rife with animal abuse uses up massive amounts of land and water. It may also be responsible for nearly one-sixth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Yet, tech-driven startups say they can offer a better way. New waves of investment have cell-cultured food companies in an edible space race to see who can get their so-called cell-based meat—animal tissue grown in bioreactors instead of live animals—on consumers’ plates first. Advances in molecular science have also fueled a new boom in plant-based meat offerings that look, smell, taste, and even grease and bleed like their fleshy counterparts. And these companies aren’t marketing to vegans and vegetarians. You can now get an Impossible Foods burger instead of a beef patty on your Burger King Whopper. Beyond Meat is stocked in the meat section of most U.S. grocery stores.
But can these slaughter-free meat alternatives really become cheap and mainstream enough to replace your traditional chorizo or chicken nugget? Can these biotech creations overcome the uncanny “ick” valley from consumers stuck on ideas that meat should come from farms and not the lab?
Join Future Tense, the New America Fellows Program, and New America NYC on May 8 at Interface NYC for drinks, plant-based meat alternative samples from Beyond Meat, and a conversation about the future foods that may dramatically transform the American way of eating.
For more information and to RSVP, visit the New America website.
Chase Purdy, @chasepurdy
2019 National Fellow, New America
Staff Writer, Quartz
Meera Zassenhaus, @meerazassenhaus
Engagement Associate at New Harvest, New Harvest
Nicole Taylor, @foodculturist
Author, The Up South Cookbook
Helena Bottemiller Evich, @hbottemiller
Senior Food and Agriculture Reporter, Politico