Op-ed: The plate of the future: working on the future of protein

May 9, 2018, 5:00 a.m.

Will the plate of the future consist of meat without animals, eggs without chickens and milk without cows? Many believe this future is closer than we think. We at Stanford should start thinking about this because it’s coming. There are lots of people already investing in and thinking about it. Visionaries like Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Google co-founder Sergey Brin and Li Ka-shing (the richest man in Asia) have already invested in companies producing meat without animals and milk without cows. But even Tyson Foods, the largest meat company in America, and Cargill, another big meat conglomerate, have invested in clean meat leader Memphis Meats. And as a blood-wise 37 percent German person, I was very happy when I found out that PHW Group, the largest producer of chicken in Germany, invested in Israeli clean meat startup SuperMeat.

Per-capita meat consumption in the United States is at an all-time high, and meat consumption is growing rapidly around the globe as the world population grows. But to keep up with this increase in demand without compromising the environment, we need drastic changes in our food systems. Advances in food technologies – including plant-based and clean meat and other cellular agriculture processes –are signs that the protein revolution has already started.

At Stanford, I recently co-organized an event titled “The Plate of the Future: Working on the Future of Protein,” which was a collaboration between The Good Food Institute, the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society, The Food and Agribusiness Club and Stanford’s People for Animal Welfare. We wanted to expose people at Stanford to the new and growing field of alternatives to conventional meat, dairy and eggs, which are poised to capture nearly a third of the global protein market in the next few decades. Moderator Charlotte Simmonds (writer, The Guardian) led the vivid discussion going on between the four panelists, all working in the plant-based and clean meat sector: Tim Geistlinger (CTO, Perfect Day), Viviane Lanquar (Director of Biochemistry, JUST), Aylon Steinhart (The Good Food Institute) and Steve Myrick (VP Business Development, Memphis Meats). The 120 attendees were captured by the energy emanating from the panelists, heard the realistic but optimistic stories and opinions the panelists had to share about their daily work and hopefully were convinced to join the future-of-protein movement.

Learning about the conditions animals in factory farms are kept in or the environmental rights of our food consumption is not enough. Changing our eating habits is a great step in the right direction, but I believe that as Stanford student and faculty we can do even more. At Stanford, we are extremely well-positioned to be part of this next agricultural revolution, because we are in the center of this innovation and could make a huge impact. The space needs more great products from entrepreneurs and creative minds that are willing to tackle this challenge, so what are we waiting for? Let’s not wait for the future protein to land on our plates, but instead go to the kitchen and prepare that protein ourselves.


In case you could not attend the event, we recorded it and have it up on Youtube now, titled “What is the future of PROTEIN? Stanford panel discussion”.

—Tatiana Freiin von Rheinbaben, M.S. ’18

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