Billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has called upon the rich nations of the world to switch over to synthetic beef to better combat climate change.
Speaking with MIT Technology Review about his new book “How to Avoid Climate Disaster,” Gates discussed his views on improving the “food sector,” and lamented that the political scene may keep first-world nations from going fully synthetic in the beef department.
“Do you think plant-based and lab-grown meats could be the full solution to the protein problem globally, even in poor nations? Or do you think it’s going to be some fraction because of the things you’re talking about, the cultural love of a hamburger and the way livestock is so central to economies around the world?” asked the interviewer.
“For Africa and other poor countries, we’ll have to use animal genetics to dramatically raise the amount of beef per emissions for them. Weirdly, the US livestock, because they’re so productive, the emissions per pound of beef are dramatically less than emissions per pound in Africa,” said Gates. “And as part of the [Bill and Melinda Gates] Foundation’s work, we’re taking the benefit of the African livestock, which means they can survive in heat, and crossing in the monstrous productivity both on the meat side and the milk side of the elite US beef lines.”
“So no, I don’t think the poorest 80 countries will be eating synthetic meat,” he added. “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. So for meat in the middle-income-and-above countries, I do think it’s possible. But it’s one of those ones where, wow, you have to track it every year and see, and the politics [are challenging]. There are all these bills that say it’s got to be called, basically, lab garbage to be sold. They don’t want us to use the beef label.”
Earlier in the interview, Bill Gates said that synthetic proteins will be required for beef because cows produce methane, a greenhouse gas.
“In terms of livestock, it’s very difficult. 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]. 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,” he said.
“Now the people like Memphis Meats who do it at a cellular level—I don’t know that that will ever be economical. But Impossible and Beyond have a road map, a quality road map and a cost road map, that makes them totally competitive,” he added.
Bill Gates, a multi-billionaire who has largely remained shielded, financially, from the economic fallout of the COVID lockdowns, previously endorsed governments shutting down small businesses to combat the virus.