Livestock bred for beef are being blamed for global warming thanks to the massive quantities of methane gas they excrete into the atmosphere, and billionaire-philanthropist-investor Bill Gates wants wealthy countries to help by eating synthetic beef.
The Microsoft founder has invested in startups including plant-based protein companies Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat, and Hampton Creek Foods, and lab-grown meat company Memphis Meats.
During an interview with the MIT Techology Review, Gates promoted his new book, “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster.” In it, he said it’s possible for humanity to avert the disaster through technological achievements, but ultimately, government policy will be needed.
Gates wants rich countries to move to “100-percent synthetic beef” in order to address the greenhouse gas emissions driving global climate change.
“I don’t think the poorest 80 countries will be eating synthetic beef. I do think all rich countries should move to 100-percent synthetic beef,” Gates told MIT.
Gates does not claim to be vegetarian and reportedly still enjoys the occasional cheeseburger, New York Times reported.
However, he said government policies will ultimately be needed that use regulations to force a shift to synthetic meat in order to avoid a climate disaster.
“You can get used to the taste difference, and the claim is they’re going to make (synthetic meat) taste even better over time,” Gates said. “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.”
Livestock emissions of greenhouse gas have reached record levels. Researchers said they believe it could lead to a global temperature increase of four degrees Celsius by the end of the century and raise the risk of natural disasters, mass famine and migration.
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“People joke about burping cows without realizing how big the source really is,” said Dr. Robert Jackson, a professor of Earth system science in Stanford University’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. “Emissions from cattle and other ruminants are almost as large as those from the fossil fuel industry for methane.”
Gates has supported plant and cellular-based meat alternatives for several years, saying that farmed animals take a “big toll” on the environment.
“After initial market hype, plant based ‘fake meat’ brands have run into headwinds in recent times including stock rating downgrades, price discounting to lift sales, and lawsuits over food safety standards,” according to Beef Central, a news service for the Australian beef industry.
On Twitter, University of California Davis Professor Frank Mitloehner called out Gates for an apparent conflict of interest. “Q: Who is by far the single largest shareholder of Canada National Rail, which makes enormous profits from shipping oil by rail?” Mitloehner tweeted. “A: Bill Gates. It’s ironic that he talks about reducing fossil fuel use but benefits so much from the shipment of the product he publicly condemns.”