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Stick a fork in steak night, because Bill Gates wants you to fill up on fauxtein for the sake of the planet. In a recent interview with MIT Tech Review, the Microsoft co-founder-turned-philanthropist doubled down on his beef with beef, arguing that the "rich countries" should ditch the rib-eye and fill their shopping carts with fake meat instead.
While going plant-based isn't a viable option for "the poorest 80 countries", Gates said, "I do think all rich countries should move to 100% synthetic beef. You can get used to the taste difference, and the claim is they’re going to make it taste even better over time. Eventually, that green premium is modest enough that you can sort of change the [behavior of] people or use regulation to totally shift the demand."
In his new book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, the billionaire contemplates the technology breakthroughs and government policies needed to clean up planet-poisoning industries like steel, cement and agriculture. It's no secret that the latter is a gargantuan contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, with burping, farting cows making up nearly a third of all emissions from livestock production. So clearly, something needs to be done.
While Gates acknowledged there would need to be a cultural shift towards plant-based meat – telling people, 'You can’t have cows anymore' would be a "politically unpopular approach", he said – as far as the health of the planet goes, there's little option but to switch to meat substitutes. It's near-impossible to eliminate the potent methane emissions associated with your go-to Five Guys order without rearing fewer cows.
"There are all the things where they feed them different food, like there’s this one compound that gives you a 20% reduction [in methane emissions]," Gates said. "But sadly, those bacteria [in their digestive system that produce methane] are a necessary part of breaking down the grass. And so I don’t know if there’ll be some natural approach there. I’m afraid the synthetic [protein alternatives like plant-based burgers] will be required for at least the beef thing."
And before you pin your hopes on lab-grown meats, they're unlikely to be the ultimate panacea to the climate disaster. "I don’t know that that will ever be economical," he added. For Gates, the future is faux.
"For meat in the middle-income-and-above countries, I do think it’s possible," he added. "But it’s one of those ones where, wow, you have to track it every year and see, and the politics [are challenging]."
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