Great to chat with Paul Shapiro, CEO and Co-founder of The Better Meat Co! The Better Meat Co. harnesses the amazing power of fermentation to make delicious, versatile fully animal-free meats! We discussed how they scaled their product from the lab to commercialization, the importance of better meat from a climate perspective, the future of the meat industry, policy improvements and more!

https://carbotnic.com/bettermeat

Paul Shapiro is the author of the national bestseller Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World, the CEO of The Better Meat Co., a four-time TEDx speaker, and the host of the Business for Good Podcast.

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James

The unedited podcast transcript is below

James McWalter

Hello today we’re speaking with Paul Shapiro Ceo and co-founder of the Better Meat Co., welcome to podcast Paul, brilliant to start. Could you tell us a little bit about the Better Meat. Co.

Paul Shapiro

James great to be with you.

Paul Shapiro

Sure the betterment co. is an ingredients company based in Sacramento that really is formed for the purpose of helping to reduce humanity’s footprint on the planet. So if you think about you know the ways that we leave our footprint a huge part of it is in our food print. Principally in the amount of meat that we eat it just takes a lot of land and a lot of water to raise none and None of animals for food. It’s also produces enormous quantities of greenhouse gases more than the entire transportation sector combined of greenhouse gases coming from animal agriculture. So this is a really serious problem but the issue is that unfortunately despite the fact that it’s commonly known now that meat production is a weeding contributor to deforestation climate change wildlife extinction pandemic risk and more meat demand continues to go up not down. So meat demand is going up in the us it’s going up in China and India and Brazil and Mexico and all the places is going to matter the most in the future meat demand is going up and so the question is like if people really are feeling wedded to consuming the meat experience. Can we divorce the meat experience from animals. So we know that we can divorce energy from fossil fuels right? Like we can get energy from wind and solar and nuclear and geothermal etc. Well we can also produce the meat experience without animals and the ways that companies today are doing that. Is either through using plants like soybeans or peas or wheat or they’re using animal cells which is not on the market yet whether companies growing real animal cells into real actual meat and then there’s what we at the better meatco. Do. Which is we’re not in the plant kingdom we’re not in the animal kingdom we use a very special kind of microscopic fungi and we grow our fungi in less than a single day. So from the moment we inoculate our fermentor to the time we harvest our fermenter we are spending less than a single day to get delicious succulent. Mycelium the root like structure of of um of fungi and what we can do is essentially create a great meat experience for very little money and so we can actually have a meat replacement that’s cost effective very convincing to the average meat consumer and really nutritious. And so that’s what we at the better meco do we do fungi fermentation to create the meat experience without animals.

James McWalter

And so this completely you know, unique approach relative to the other alternatives that you mentioned um what was the genesis of getting to a position where okay we can use this way of fermenting fungus to create a you know like a true meat substitute.

Paul Shapiro

Well, there’s one company in the space right now that earns about 100% of what’s called mycoprote of that mycoprote market and that’s called corn q u or m and so corn for decades now has proven that you can do fungi fermentation to create foods that are high in protein now.

Paul Shapiro

You know few people who eat corn think it tastes like meat. They might think it tastes good and I’m one of them I think it tastes very good I Really like corn. Um, but I don’t eat it thinking. Oh I can’t tell the difference between this and meat. It’s just like a different category of food and I really like it and so.

Paul Shapiro

You know James being from Ireland do this corn is a british company you you probably are more familiar with it than your listeners are if your listeners are more in the United States but corn has some products in the United States too and I like eating them so corn has proven that you can industrialize fungi fermentation to create an actual product what we are doing. That’s different.

Paul Shapiro

Is using a totally different strain not just strain but species an entirely different genus of fungi altogether that creates a much more meat-like experience and so there’s other differences between corn and us. But the point is that there are None of fungi species out there and they all have different properties and what we’re doing is creating. A very meat like experience through a whole food that has grown through fermentation where the product has more protein than eggs and more iron than Beef. It’s really like a superfood and it’s amazing that we can produce it for so little money in such a short amount of time.

James McWalter

And so the production as it’s scaling up and it’s commercialized today in the early days when it was like in the lab. You know what was that kind of process like was this the always the you know, proposed use case for that original r and d. Or this kind of come out of some other idea that and was like oh this actually is a better direction for this research to go in.

Paul Shapiro

Yeah I mean with any startup we’ve had ah many twists and turns or a lot of plot twists to our story here but we have always had the North star of creating a way to satiate Humanity’s meat tooth without animals and so as an ingredients company.

Paul Shapiro

We are partnered with big meat companies like purdue farms where we sell them ingredients that they can cut down on the number of chickens they use. So for example, back in the beginning of our company. We were founded in 18 back then we formed an agreement with Purdue Farms that enables them to make hybrid products so these are products that have none plant based and none chicken and those still to this day they sell very well they’re in none of supermarkets. It’s called purdue chicken plus and those products do quite well, we really are proud of that partnership. So for us like you know we’ve been.

Paul Shapiro

Ah, selling ingredients for some time to meat companies to help them reduce the amount of animals they need now at the same time when we really got interested in mycelium was pretty much toward the beginning of the company but it wasn’t the plan from the very beginning what became very queer was that using plant protein isoits. It’s very difficult. To get down to cost parity with meat meat is very ah, cheap, relatively speaking to plant-based meat not because plants are more expensive than meat like you know you think peas are less expensive than beef. For example, why is a pea protein based burger so much more expensive than a beef burger. It’s because you’re not using the whole pe. You know you’re using a tiny fraction of a pea the pea protein so you know in a pea. There’s like only 20% protein and so you end up stripping out the fiber stripping out the fact concentrating that pea protein down and then you have to texturize it so there are all these processes that you’re engaged in to get a pee to finally look like something like ground beef. For us when you utilize mycelium and use ui fungi you use the whole biomass. It’s not just like the equivalent of using the pea. It’s like the equivalent of using the entire pea plant and so that’s how we’re able to get cost down is because we’re not purifying or extracting any None individual isoe.

Paul Shapiro

From an organism. We’re using the entire organism itself and so that became very queer to me early on that if we wanted to actually compete on price not just on taste but on price with animal meat. We probably are going to have to move away from plant protein iso. It’s.

James McWalter

So yeah, it’s pretty interesting I mean we’ve definitely talked to a few folks, you know, working on some of the other alternative approaches to meat replacement over you know the kind a None or so episodes of the podcast and one of the questions I was asked is about that price parody right? because you can definitely build a wedge around folks. Who are like okay I’ll eat this from a animal cruelty or climate ah point of view and you know they’re making assumption choices on the basis about those Frameworks but mass adoption is going to necessitate price parity at scale and so. Starting with that as the kind of core focus I think is really smart because it does allow you to say? Okay, Um, yeah, we’ve ticked that box Now. You have to tick the otherer box around taste texture flavor. All those kind of other elements and so yeah, when you. Going? Yeah and you mentioned the ups and downs and and ins and outs of kind of startup life as you were trying to kind of you know, move through this kind of process. Um, what were kind of the early versions of the product like you know were there any kind of you know, fall starts or pivots from what the product itself looked like.

Paul Shapiro

Yeah, that’s good I appreciate that James so you know Ben Horowitz from the Vc fund Andreessen Horowitz is a really funny line where he says that if you start your own company. You will sleep like a baby because you will wake up every 2 hours and cry.

James McWalter

The retinum.

Paul Shapiro

And you know that certainly has been comparable to my experience. There’s just you know there’s like a rule I call it like the law of of the better miko and I presume. It’s a universal law across all startups. But you know pretty much whatever you want to do. It seems like it’s going to take more money than you plan and take more time than you plan. And so we have I think made some good decisions in terms of our fundraising to raise more than we thought we would need because we wanted to plan for these type of contingencies where you need more than you think. And so yeah, there are false starts you buy equipment and it turns out that equipment doesn’t work in the way that you thought that it would or it doesn’t work as well as you thought it would and you know equipment is expensive. You’re talking like None figure expenses if not more and so then you know you you can see how like you know the margin for error is pretty tight. So if you buy let’s say a None figure piece of equipment. It turns out that it doesn’t really do what you thought it’s pretty difficult to recoup that cost and then you need to go out and buy other equipment. So. There’s lots of ways that you can have that and so we’ve had that when we we built, we’ve built the largest mycelium biomass fermentation facility in North America which we run here in Sacramento.

Paul Shapiro

But when we first built it. We completed the construction of it in June of 2021 and you know the None products that we were making I tell you James they did not look like the products that we made in the lab. The products we made in the lab were really really good. Really tasty.

James McWalter

Sure.

Paul Shapiro

And then the products that we’re making in a much larger pilot scale facility turns out not really the same and so it took months of experimenting with different processes and different equipment to be able to scale up what we had done at the lab just to the pilot scale. Now we want to scale up to the commercial scale where we can actually build a full scale commercial fermentation facility with fermentors that go into the sky and create a river of our microprote to flow through the food industry and prevent the need to raise none of animals for food and that’s going to be another. You know important scale up that we need to get right? And so. Um, you know if I were to show you videos of the very None product. Our pilot plant made I can tell you you know just between us James. It looked more like leather than like meat honestly. But yes, yeah, you would be racing to make a great wristwatch with it.

James McWalter

Sure right? You wouldn’t be. You wouldn’t be racing the throw your fork at it.

Paul Shapiro

Um, but ah, but today thankfully the product now is back to lab quality and it’s it’s truly stur and it makes fantastic bacon daily slices steaks, chicken breasts and more.

James McWalter

And so on the ah so I’d love to get a continue dive on the supply side and then I think there’s a lot of kind of interesting things on the demand side to talk about as well. But you know what are the inputs. Ah yeah.

James McWalter

To the process into the fermenter and how do you think about those inputs Also I guess within this kind of climate prism from a total emissions reduction point of view. So.

Paul Shapiro

Is. Yeah I love this question. So thanks for asking it James so you know we’re not creating food from thin air here like you know when you’re running a fermentation what that means is think about it almost like as if you’re raising animals. So the microbes are your animals and they are way more efficient than animals. So you know with the cow. You know you might need like twenty five calories in to get None calorie out. However, with fermentation you’re talking about way way better ratios like down to like None to None so basically this is going to be way way better than animal meat on a climate perspective. Um, but you’re still feeding so you know basically if you think about it like you’re feeding your microbes. They’re eating and they grow up and then you eat them. So it’s really kind of like animal agriculture except your so-called animals aren’t aren’t animals at all. They’re just microscopic fungi but they like to eat and they like to eat sugar. So you know there’s different ways to get sugar most people in the United States who are in this type of a business. They end up using corn-based sugars what we do at the better meko is we’ve actually pioneered ways to valorize agricultural byproducts and feed them to our microbes so that rather than relying on you know huge vest. Fields of agriculture for us. We can take the byproducts of the potato industry and the corn industry and the rice industry take those byproducts and feed them so that we’re actually upcycling nutrients that otherwise are not going to be valorized in the same type of way. And upcycle them into really delicious meat like products and so for us like yeah, we want to replace meat like that is the main climate benefit of what we’re doing but we want to do it with the lowest footprint and we know we’re way lower than meat as far as footprint is concerned but we want to do it with the lowest possible footprint at all and so by valorizing. Agricultural byproducts. We end up having a much lighter footprint on the planet than if we were just going out into the market and and just buying sugar like the way that is customary and in this field.

James McWalter

That yeah that that makes us sort of sense and I think a lot of the you know companies attackckling climate in some way you know think very very deeply about the the full supply chain and you know it’s very difficult today to have a truly circular economy around any particular supply chain. It’s just the nature of where we are. But. Having been thoughtful about that figuring out where are there aspects that are you know considered as waste and you know currently in in the case that of the better mio. But then also ah you know the outputs and kind of constantly thinking in that circular way I think is kind of quite powerful that echo.

Paul Shapiro

Bones.

Paul Shapiro

yeah and yeah I mean you know it’s tough it’s tough to say like what is waste right? So like a lot of the times in the food industry if there’s some byproduct or some sidestream. Um. It might ah might be going. Let’s say to fertilizer or might be going to cattle feed lots like is that waste. It’s not going to a landfill necessarily It’s being used for something. Um, but it’s not really being valorized like it’s going for you know pennies per pound and so. You can take those products and and upcycle them into something that’s way more valuable. Um, now. Sometimes there is like true waste that goes literally into a landfill. But the food system is pretty efficient. You know the the food system does tend to take you know they don’t like to throw away money so they do tend to take a lot of things that would then you know, just get. Turned into like cattle feed or something like that. But that can be utilized for other things and that’s like None of the magic cool things about fermentation is that you can convert low value products into high value products through the magic of fermentation.

James McWalter

And then thinking through on the demand side. So you mentioned some of the kind of initial use cases for your product is combining it with existing yeah meat right? and it’s an ingredient that’s going into an existing you know, ah will call us a yeah cowbased be or yeah, something along those lines.

Paul Shapiro

Um, is yeah.

James McWalter

And how do you think about on the demand side. How much is going to be a direct consumer demand for a greater increase for products like yours versus a balance that’s happening more at the level of the existing suppliers of of meat beef and lamb and and chicken and so On. We’re saying Okay, we also have to hit certain climate Goals. We need to incorporate these other solutions to hit our Eshi goals. So How do you think about that balance between you know the corporates who are thinking through their Eshi goals versus consumption and consumers thinking through I want to make this change for you know my own and I want a product that like matches.

Paul Shapiro

Yeah, so I have a kind of pessimistic point of view on this which is that consumers say that they care about climate and esg. But in practice they buy the things that are the cheapest really.

James McWalter

My own view about climate and sustainability and.

Paul Shapiro

Um, so I just think there’s a big difference between what we tell pollsters we’re interested in and what we actually do in the supermarket and so you know even if you take this kind of a bad example. But if you think about like ethanol you know, like right now you have like 10% to 15% of most gas tanks in the country are running on ethanol because that’s ah, a part of the.

Paul Shapiro

Renewable fuels policy of the federal government and nobody thinks about it like nobody contemplates when they put that in there. Nobody thought oh there’s demand from the individual consumer that they want to use less fossil fuels and more biomass. So they’re just going to you know use cornbase ethanol in their tank. Just happened because of government policy. Ah similarly, um, you know most people who are putting solar panels on their roofs are not sitting there thinking that they’re climate warriors. They’re knowing that solar panels or solar power is coming down in cost and it can save the money and so then those rebates that the state and federal government have offered. Make it more attractive as well. And so the moment that renewable energy becomes less expensive than coal and oil and so on is the moment that it stops being such a tiny infinitesimal part of our energy grid and actually becomes a big part of it. It becomes the mainstream dominant source and so I think that the things that drive food decisions are. Taste just King like people if it doesn’t taste good. There. Nothing else matters then price and and then convenience as well. So that’s like the holy trinity when it comes to what actually motivates not what people say but what they do is. It’s got to taste great. It’s got to be cost effective and it needs to be convenient for people. So if you get that right? I think most people are quite happy to switch to animal-free meat. You know most people don’t care like you know they’re not sitting around like you point it like this like you walk into a room you flip on a light switch. Nobody’s thinking. Oh like is this light coming from coal or oil or is it coming from wind or so or you know people don’t think about that they just want an illuminated room. They want the experience of a lit room. The same is so when people eat meat like they’re not sitting around thinking. Ah I’m so glad an animal was slaughtered for this like nobody cares like they just want the experience of eating meat.

Paul Shapiro

And frankly, if they did think about the animal they might prefer that the animal not have been sluttered for it and so once that comes down in price and it tastes the same if not better I think that you’re a long way towards solving this problem. And answer your question directly about these meat companies though. James I I do think like part of it might be about their esg goals. But I also think that part of it has to do with their desire to not lose out on the future. You know they look and they see what happened to Kodak you know we all know like Kodak and canon were vying for supremacy in the film market. In the 1990 s and they both knew about digital but Kodak thought it would cannibalize its core business whereas canyon yeah, yeah, right? exactly? So like you know Canon is one of this massive company today and Kodak mine bankrupt and the the meat companies don’t want to be like Kodak they realize like.

James McWalter

And they’re the biggest companies in the world today.

Paul Shapiro

You know thing like the experience is still the same. We’re still capturing our memories. We just do it in a way more efficient way today than we did before. In fact, amusingly I was actually just thinking about how I remember when I was in college and in around like 2000 when I started using 1 hour photo and like I couldn’t believe that there was such a thing like I truly believed I was like in a Jetson’s future where we could get our photos in only 1 hour and I just couldn’t believe I had lived to be in this era and now of course imagine if you had to wait 1 minute like imagine 1 minute waiting for your photo. You’d be outraged. People would be insane. Apple’s stock would plummet so you know things change very rapidly in terms of technology and but we still get the same experience. You get to capture your memory. Well the same is so with meat like.

Paul Shapiro

Most people don’t care whether meat comes from an animal or not I just think that they want the meat they want it to taste good and be safe and be cost effective and so the meat companies realize they can do deliver for that same experience to the customer but in a way more efficient way I think a lot of them want to be the cann and they don’t want to be the Kodak.

James McWalter

Yeah, it’s it’s pretty interesting I mean I guess I’ll I’ll put a bit of kind of context on on on my side. So um, yeah, and some of the listeners probably heard me talk about this in the past. But yeah I grew up on ah a sheep farm in West Coast of Ireland we convert to organic in 98 but we’re still sheep a sheep farm. And I was actually a a butcher in the local butcher shop from you know age 16 to 20 and that was like my part-time job and you know doing a very particular job. Um, but I’ve also we have not had meat in our in our home for probably about 4 years my wife and I although I will on occasion eat mes when I’m out in restaurants and so on and I think one of the aspects that. Ah I guess I think a lot about is my own kind of move from being as ingrained in a meat eating culture and and you know literary butchering right? like ah to someone who basically has no meat in the home and most of that you know even with. Things like that I intellectually understood around animal cruelty and you know climate and all these kind of elements. Really it was down to people around me my wife in particular just stopped eating as much meat and that was the element where I was like oh okay, like actually just you know. The default is not ah yeah, a meatant and two veg which is like the default irish meal right? So you have yeah a steak and then you have ah yeah potatoes and then carrots and that is the default irish meal. Um, for most folks. Um, and so yeah, so I guess like you know how do you think about.

Paul Shapiro

Um, yes.

James McWalter

Like ways that ah culturally, there will be these wedges where you know if people see other people you know taking change. Um, how that can compound on top of these other factors which are of course important around you know price. Ah you know, ah like like taste and um and quality in general.

Paul Shapiro

Um, that is.

Paul Shapiro

Well I mean the question is does the average consumer care like you have this unique experience right? You grew up on a sheep farm you were involved in butchering and so on and there will be changes in the economy from this just as there’s changes in the film economy to go back to that example, you know all the chemicals that were sold for the dark rooms. The dark rooms themselves like all that stuff kind of went away. You know, same thing like people who had jobs at Blockbuster video don’t have jobs anymore because now we stream our video Content. So I Do think that there will be some displacement in the economy and I think that people who are involved in the business of raising and sluering animals for food. Ah, will actually have displacement in this in in this type of a future similarly Tobacco Growers Got you know, displaced by the public Health campaigns of the last several decades. So I’m not I’m not necessarily comparing tobacco and meat I’m just saying functionally these all have similarities from videos to film to tobacco to Animal Slaughter and so on and so I do think though that these industries are not going to go Away. You know we still have print film I mean some people still use horseform carriages. Even. Um, so I don’t think that they’ll go away I Do think though that there will be major changes like we will be raising and slaughtering None of fewer animals and that does mean that the people who are involved in like trucking those animals to slaughter Plants. Reading those animals castrating those animals branding the animals. The antibiotics that are given to the animals like all of that does get impacted and so you know in the case of the tobacco growers they could switch to other crops right? So like and really interestingly in the Us a lot of the tobacco growers. Ah, ultimately switched to growing chickpeas because as but as demand for tobacco was waning demand for hummus was increasing I Nothing causally correlated but it is kind of entertaining to think about like so you know hummus is on the Rise Tobacco’s on the fall and so a lot of the tobacco growers started switching to um to chickpeas.

Paul Shapiro

So It’s easy to see how a tobacco grower becomes a chickpea grower. It’s much harder to see how it ends your family’s experience like how a sheep farmer becomes a microbiologist right? like it’s just the the skillset that is needed to produce food in the future is not the same as in the past. And so I really am a fervent believer that there should be programs in place by the government that will help transition to this future food in the same way I think that we need that for coal miners and people involved in oil extraction and so on you know we need. To be training. Let’s say coal miners and and oil rig employees into how to do geothermal and solar installation and so on similarly I think people who are involved in the raising and slaughtering of animals. It’s really imperative that we have government programs that help. To train them to be a part of the future food industry as well.

James McWalter

And just because you mentioned that on the government side there and you know anything that is consumed. There’s often a regulatory environment associated with it. Um, there have been historically many battles over. Yeah what? what is milk What is meat you know the the kind of terms you can use.

Paul Shapiro

Reason.

James McWalter

And so how do you think about? yeah where the regulatory environment is today for companies like yours and ways that it could improve.

Paul Shapiro

Ah, well,, there’s lots of ways that it could improve. But so the food and drug administration has these rules that relate to what’s called Grass which is generally recognized as safe and the process is stringent as it should be to get a new ingredient to be determined to be grass again generally recognized as safe. Where my beef pun intended comes with a process is that there does seem to be preferential treatment given for animal experimentation to prove the safety of an ingredient and animal experimentation is not really an effective way to figure out what is safe for a human to consume.

Paul Shapiro

Humans and animals. Especially the animals who they’re testing on oftentimes rats and rabbits and so on have very different responses to different to different compounds and so actually if you use your family as an example, arsenic is not really a problem for sheep. Feed arsenic to sheep and they do fine and then you think oh well this is safe for humans to eat. Well I don’t recommend finding out so you know there’s just so a lot of differences there and so I’m a believer that the Fda while it does not legally require animal testing. It is like a de facto.

Paul Shapiro

Expectation that there will be animal testing and so I think when the agency should make it clearer that yeah you have to do stringent safety testing to make sure that your ingredient is safe but I would if I were at the Fda and could wave a magic wand I would give more explicit guidance. On this animal test in question and make it clear that you need to prove safety but you don’t need to prove it by by killing animals. So that’s my you know my main recommendation on that point, but ah overall I do think that the ah. That the battery of safety tests that the government requires to prove safety of these ingredients is pretty appropriate. Um, and I’m glad that it exists as a consumer.

James McWalter

Yeah, the the Fda is it’s quite an interesting agency is you know we’ve obviously all collectively gone through covid over the last number of years those those who are based in the Us. Ah, you know have I think had these ups and downs of you know, frustration of. Probably people thinking that the agency is going too fast or too slow over things like vaccination approval and so on and you know I definitely personally would never want to be a regulator because you are trying to weigh up like a ton of different factors. Um, but we’ll generally default to the to be less risky. Um I think I think it’s fair to say and so.

James McWalter

You know my general kind of view is that ah you know as somebody more a friend the startup side of things is that um we could put collectively take more risks across the board but I completely understand why those? yeah this kind of grass framework is in place. Um, and so. What about elements where you’ve had. Ah yeah, lobbying around naming terminology. Um, and it sounds like you know the meat you know the kind of meat focus major kind of companies like they are like okay this is the future. We’re actually not going to attempt to block this in a way that maybe. Ah, you know there’s very very large lobbying campaigns to try to prevent oat milk from being able to use the word milk and and other efforts you like you can’t use. Ah you know things from cow milk cannot be called cheese or sorry things from cow milk are the only things that called cheese in France um, because they have these kind of various rules structured around them.

Paul Shapiro

Commit.

James McWalter

And so have you kind of how is that is there any kind of areas that we can need to improve on in that area as well.

Paul Shapiro

Yeah, this is like the the big fight right? and and if you go back to these other examples like you know, nobody thinks that the photos you take on your phone aren’t photographs right? Nobody calls them a fake photo nobody refers to either your cell phone as ah as a fake landline or a fake phone.

Paul Shapiro

Ah, we think of it as a telephone because that’s the service that it provides for us in the same way when people think about coconut milk. Nobody is really confused and thinking oh is it coconut milk is that coming from a cow. Yeah people know coconut milk is coming from coconuts. And the same way that nobody thinks peanut butter even though though it says butter in the name. Nobody’s thinking this is coming from cows. Ah very few people hear you know terms like hamburger and think hey why is there? no ham in that consumers are smart enough to figure this out and so what’s happened though is that the meat in the dairy industry is at least some players in them. Have tried to pass laws or regulations to crack down on terms like almond milk soy milk. You know plantmp-based burger and so on and by and large in the us they haven’t really succeeded. They the laws that passed oftentimes have been found to be unconstitutional, but there’s been more success in Europe on this for sure. But in the us there hasn’t been a lot of success cracking down too too bad with without it being ruled unconstitutional but it’s telling that this industry is so concerned. That they want to force these companies to say things like fake or artificial in their names when there’s nothing fake about it at all, you know again, it’s not any more fake than your phone is your cell phone is a fake landline. So I think that this just shows the desperation. You know if I were in the dairy industry and I see year on year. Fluid milk consumption continuing to decline while plant-based milk consumption continues to increase I would be thinking you know what can I do to try to stop this competition? Um, but hopefully I would be smart enough to say hey rather than fight them. Maybe I should join them and now that’s what a lot of the dairy companies are doing and they’re launching their own plant-based milk lines.

Paul Shapiro

Some of the biggest purveyors of plant-based milk today are dairy companies themselves and I think ultimately that’s what it’s going to take in order to get this industry to succeed is not just to have like small startups who are doing this trying to be like a David versus goliath. But rather having the big the big companies that are already producing meat and milk and eggs and so on be the ones to purvey these products and not the only ones but they have you know great marketing. Great distribution, great scale and so on so they can be poised to succeed rather than just be disrupted and become like the next blockbuster. Or codec.

James McWalter

It’s so interesting. We we keep kind of returning to this concept of of disruption and as as you’re talking there I thinking of I believe it’s Clayton Christensen who originally wrote a lot of the work on disruption theory.

Paul Shapiro

Nothing.

James McWalter

And you know people coming out of Harvard andbas. All of a sudden are reading about the codec example and are reading about the disruption brought on. Yeah how Microsoft Disrupted Ibm and how you have these kind of like specific frameworks to how you can disrupt a given industry and you know once people once I guess the cat is out of the bag is like okay.

Paul Shapiro

Um, you have.

James McWalter

We don’t want to be Kodak or we don’t want to be you know Ibm and again you know some of these companies are still around but are nowhere near what they once were in the dominant position and so you know as youak I was like yeah is that Clayton Christiansen one of like the great environmentalists because.

James McWalter

It’s enabling a lot lot of this kind of transition where these companies are like okay instead of fighting this to nale where they’re going to eventually win from a technology point of view or there is some orthogonal business model that’s going to completely disrupt us like we have to get on that train. Otherwise we’re just going to be completely left behind.

Paul Shapiro

Yeah, so I love Kuit and Christensen I wish that I had met this guy because I’ve read his books and I’m ah I’m a fan. Um, and I think he’s right and I think these big food companies are right to try to innovate. You know, like right now like the food industry spends nearly no money on r and d compared to what you see in the tech space. You know in like electronics and in computing you see companies having budgets of you know, like around you know 30% for r and d basically whereas in the food industry. It’s like single digit percent.

James McWalter

It hath.

Paul Shapiro

And that’s that’s ah, that’s fine for a static industry where you know you’re just thinking hey how can we you know make a chunki or tomato sauce or how can we make a spicier tomato sauce you know or you know somebody’s like hey I came up with a really interesting flavor of peanut butter. Um, but when you’re starting to talk about things like just fundamentally different ways of producing protein without animals. It requires a lot of r and d and so I think that there are some forward thinking companies in the space that are taking a page from the Christensen Playbook and are actually investing in innovation centers where they can find really great ways to satiate the meat experience as well without animals.

James McWalter

You and you know looking into your background I Believe you’re the ah author of a bestselling book called Clean meat. Um, we don’t often have folks who you have written books as as long as as well as us, founding companies and and building companies um was experience like and I guess you know why we. Why was like writing up that book I Guess so important to you and how do you think about that as like a leverage point for the company itself.

Paul Shapiro

At least? well you know, none of all, thanks for bringing up my book I appreciate that and um, it’s it’s very kind of you James so the book is called clean meat how growing meat without animals will revolutionize dinner in the world. And the basic premise behind it is that it chronicles the stories of the investors the entrepreneurs the scientists who are all racing to commercialize the world’s none slaughter free meat and I wrote the book really as an exploration of this thesis that it may be that food technology is going to do more to improve agricultural sustainability. Than passing laws and and raising awareness will do so I you know I am a big believeer in passage of laws and raising awareness I think that’s fantastic. Um, but if you look for example, just take animal welfare if you look at how animal welfare is advanced in the United States most of the time it’s new technology and innovation that ends up freeing animals. So you know if you look at the fact that we used to slaughter none of whales in order to white our homes. We didn’t stop whaling in the united states because people cared about. Whales we stopped because Kerosene was invented and we had a better way to light our homes and and the kerosene industry really liberated whales from harpoons. We didn’t stop whipping horses and forcing them to carry us and our goods all around because people cared about horses we stopped because cars were invented. We used to live pluck geese for their quills. A very tortuous thing to do.

Paul Shapiro

And that’s how we wrote letters and we didn’t stop live plucking Geese because people cared about geese we stopped because metal fountain pens were invented and all of a sudden live plucking Geese and and goose cool pins were totally obsolete and so the question is like you look at you know example after example, after example. Of exploitation of animals being rendered obsolete by technological innovation yet. How many categories of animal exploitation were ended because people were actually trying to be more humanitarian-minded and the answer is virtually none like it’s very hard to find examples of of industries that were eradicated. Simply because of some moral awakening that people had about animals maybe like The only thing I and think of is like veal where people really stopped eating veal because of concerns about the treatment of the cabs. Um, but that’s a pretty unique case right? It’s a luxury item very few people ate it. It’s very expensive.

Paul Shapiro

Um, and there still is a Ill industry today. So it. It hasn’t been eradicated and so you know the purpose of the book is to explore that idea that um you know, maybe rather than doing what seems obvious which is to try to persuade people of the ethical benefits of plant-based eating. Or of you know, trying to do better for climate and so on maybe the thing to do is just render the current system obsolete and so that’s what the book explores and when the book came out. It was you know I’d never published a book before and I got very fortunate. I didn’t realize how the book would perform it hit the washington post bestseller list and Npr and wall street journal did these nice reviews of it and it led to an outcome for me that was very unexpected and at the time when I finished the book tour I had the choice I had the opportunity to write another book. In the same vein which I thought would be a really cool thing to do but I started talking to my wife about this and I was thinking you know rather than continuing to write about the people who I thought were going to solve this problem. Maybe I should just become one of them myself. And I chose that latter path and started the better meet co and more than 4 years later the company still exists so it hasn’t gone off the rails yet.

James McWalter

Absolutely and you know a book takes a while right? So like you’re building a company and you maybe you write 1 to 2 books and that same for your period and of course it is great to to write to write the book. But ah, you know the you know the leverage and and the kind of impact in the world. Um, of course it does an impact in ideas from.

James McWalter

From the book. But also think you know getting your hands dirt is is this incredibly exciting thing. Um I Also believe you are the host of the business for good podcast. What have you learned from giving your own interviews to your guests right.

Paul Shapiro

Oh that’s really nice of you James so you learned correctly. Um I do host the business for good podcast which is a show that spotlights folks who are trying to make money by making the world. A better place. So um, you know we feature companies doing all types of really cool things. Both in the food space and elsewhere. So you know people who are um, making eggs without chickens people who are finding out really cool new ways that you can make a business around nuclear waste storage. It’s very safe excuse me people were making um you know. Petroleum-free plastics or biodegradable plastics like all these really interesting ideas for businesses that can help to save the world and I have really admired the entrepreneurs who come onto the show sometimes we have titans like we’ve had on the Ceo and and founder of whole foods and. That executives from some larger companies too. But most of the time it’s it’s it’s entrepreneurs who are trying to make a business work to create something from nothing and I really admire the resilience that it takes because these people come on and they share their stories about what it takes to actually accomplish this you know startups have a very high mortality rate. It’s like 90% failure and so you know you have to you know if you’re looking just to get really rich. You know your chances are low. Um, but if you’re looking to solve a problem and really making a big impact on the world. You have a good chance. You know your your chances are high of failure. But at least you have a chance of doing something really important for the world. And so I really appreciate talking with entrepreneurs who are doing that who have quit their jobs and focused on creating something that is far more risky far less certain and are trying to do it because they see some problem in the world that they are so passionate about that. They just can’t do anything else with their lives. And so I’ve really enjoyed hosting the business for good podcast because I find it as a source of real inspiration for myself as well.

James McWalter

I and I absolutely echo that and many of the same reasons that that I host this podcast on Paul it’s been absolutely brilliant chatting before you finish off is there anything I should have asked you about but did not.

Paul Shapiro

Ah, no I really appreciate it James I admire what you’re doing here and I appreciate a chance to be a part of it and so the only thing I would say is that if you’re interested in getting more involved with the better meat co. We welcome hearing from you. So our website is bettermeat Co again, that’s better meat Co would’d love to hear from you get involved. We are hiring. We are. We’re recording this in June of 2022 and we are going to be soon opening an investment round so we’re looking forward to that if you’re interested. We’d love to hear from you as well. Also if you’re interested in reading the book Clean meat. You can buy it anywhere. Books are sold including on Amazon or you can go to the book’s website which is just https://cleanmeat.com/ again, that’s http://cleanmeat.com and you can get in touch with me through either of those websites https://www.bettermeat.co/

James McWalter

So and we’ll all add all those links into the show notes. Thank you Paul.

Paul Shapiro

Awesome! Thanks James.

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