Food for thought: Killing a cow is the least effective way to make a steak

Innovation could utterly transform the way meat is created and consumed in the world, making it more efficient and removing some of the problems like greenhouse emissions. While I didn’t get a chance to attend The Intersection conference at the Googleplex recently, a sentence from notes on a discussion between VC Steve Jurvetson and Microsoft (s MSFT) co-founder Nathan Myhrvold at the event stood out for me on the subject of meat and innovation: “Killing a cow is the least effective way to make a steak.”
Over the years the meat industry has delivered efficiency in animal raising, slaughtering and meat production through factory farming, which reduces the time it takes for animals to mature with corn-based diets, antibiotics, hormones and other industrial feeding and slaughtering techniques. But maximizing the efficiency of industrial meat production has led to a lot of unintended negative consequences and a growing movement of people who will pay more for organic, local meat or will forgo meat altogether.
But what if you could reduce, or eliminate, the whole traditional meat production industry completely? That’s the idea behind new types of plant-based proteins, so-called in-vitro meat production and more integral approaches to reducing meat consumption. Because the world’s population is rapidly growing to 9 billion by 2050, and developing countries have emerging middle classes that want a higher standard of living, alternative protein and meat production could find a market in the developing world first.
Here’s three new technologies being developed that can reduce eating animals:

  • Peter Thiel’s Breakout Labs invested in a food startup called Modern Meadow, which aims to combine in-vitro meat with 3D printing. The idea is to print out a meat product from biological materials.
  • Beyond Meat is a startup backed by Obvious Corp — the group that created Twitter — which is creating next-gen plant-based meat substitutes. The product is on sale in a few select locations at Whole Foods in Northern California.
  • Foodpairing is a food industry research company and app developer that has broken down flavor to its molecular components and compiled databases that can identify vegetable or seafood ingredients that reinforce the flavor of different meats, or can act as a substitute for a meat entirely.