Richard Branson wrote in a blog post on the Virgin website in August that he foresaw a future where humanity no longer kills animals for meat. The post came as Branson, agricultural giant Cargill and fellow entrepreneur and philanthropist Bill Gates invested in lab-grown meat. As CNBC reported, Memphis Meats raised $17 million on the basis of its “clean meat” technology which develops meat products from animal cells without ever raising or slaughtering an actual animal.
Forbes wrote last week that Branson is just one wealthy person trying to take action against global food systems that are unsustainable. The British billionaire first announced his own dietary change on the Virgin website back in 2014, saying he’d given up one of his once-favorite foods, beef. The reasons were primarily environmental: according to Branson, beef production uses a large amount of deforested land and water, and livestock contributes substantially to greenhouse gas emissions through the raising of animals and their transport.
Making a blanket statement that a vegetarian diet is better for the environment is subject to controversy. CNN reported earlier this year that the issue of sustainability in food production is far more complex, as poor communities often rely on crops to support themselves, vegetables are also transported large distances to reach end consumers and growing certain favored vegetables such as avocados require massive amounts of water. But Branson seems to restrict his comments to the specific issue of livestock.
However, in his most recent post, Branson made it clear how he thought future generations would see modern-day meat production.
“I believe that in 30 years or so we will no longer need to kill any animals and that all meat will either be clean or plant-based, taste the same and also be much healthier for everyone. One day we will look back and think how archaic our grandparents were in killing animals for food.”
Forbes said Branson’s recent investment is simply a case of him aligning his personal beliefs with his financial prowess. However, the entrepreneur’s own words seem to imply backing an innovative sustainable food company is a smart money bet as well.
“Plant-based proteins that taste as good if not better than meat are rapidly growing, so much so that the meat and dairy substitutes industry is predicted to be worth $40 billion by 2020.”
According to The Independent, Memphis Meats, which has raised $22 million total including the recent $17 million round, frames its mission as one that’s good for the earth, animals and people, with co-founder Uma Valeti saying environmental destruction, poor animal welfare and declining human health are “problems that everyone wants to solve.”
As if to provide greater evidence that clean and plant-based meats are the wave of the future, Branson stated that Don Thompson, the former CEO of McDonald’s, is on the board of advisors of Beyond Meat, another plant-based meat company.
[Featured image by Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images]