People may enjoy eating animals, but they can’t like the diseases, famine, deforestation, natural disasters, human rights violations, animal abuse, and air and water pollution caused by the animal agriculture industry. Enter The Good Food Institute (GFI), a nonprofit organization working from multiple angles to deliver the taste, texture, convenience, and affordability of animal-based meat without the negative consequences.
GFI Executive Director Bruce Friedrich explains, “People are eating meat not because of how it has been produced but rather despite how it’s being produced.” Fortunately, there are other options. Plant-based and clean meat check all the boxes you want in your food and people can watch how its made. The animal agriculture industry, on the other hand, is passing so-called Ag Gag laws to make it against the law for customers to see what they do to animals before they slaughter them.
Friedrich and his team are on a mission to create a more sustainable, humane, and healthier world. Five years since our last interview, Friedrich remains optimistic, strategic, and determined. He is as smart as they come, humble, passionate, reflective, resourceful, transparent, indomitable, and poised — and he has assembled a jaw-dropping team at GFI that mirrors his talents. He agreed to join us for an interview on the groundbreaking work at GFI. As usual, prepare for a full serving of information, innovation, and inspiration.
Kirschner’s Korner: What is GFI’s most important accomplishment to date?
Bruce Friedrich: I’m afraid that I’m unable to pick just one. GFI is the only nonprofit focused on accelerating the global market for competitive plant-based and clean alternatives to the products of industrial animal agriculture. We grew our staff from 3 to 10 during 2016, and now our team is 30 strong. GFI is 100% supported by gifts and grants, and each member of our team is laser-focused on an actionable battle plan of high-impact activities, grounded in a strategic plan, quarterly goals, and maximum transparency.
GFI is acting as a highly effective Think Tank/Accelerator for the entire plant-based and clean meat market sectors. In this role, GFI has been laying the groundwork for scientific development of alternatives to conventionally produced animal products, and assisting start-ups with solutions to the real-world challenges they face in launching their ventures.
GFI supported the launch of two highly innovative good food companies by providing business planning, marketing and media expertise, and scientific and technical background and support. GFI also helped with the formation of two other nascent good food companies. We are also helping a number of other start-ups who are in the early planning stages. All of these companies — and the ones that are going to follow — are poised to bring about significant transformation of the meat, dairy, and egg industries. GFI’s relationships (primarily as scientific advisors) with VC leaders play a vital role in allowing the most promising plant-based and clean meat companies to raise venture capital.
Where is the greatest need to advance the plant-based and/or clean meat movement? What steps is GFI taking to fill the gap?
For plant-based meat, the greatest need is for more people to have convenient and cost-competitive access to delicious and well-marketed products. As demand increases, supply will increase as well, leading to increased demand, etc. One way GFI is helping is our comprehensive report on the state of the plant-based meat industry. We also have an entire corporate engagement department that is doing outreach with restaurants, institutions, etc. to get more plant-based entrees onto menus.
For clean meat to reach the tipping point, we obviously have to get the cost down. Ultimately, once scientists and engineers have worked out the issues and companies are producing at scale, clean meat will be able to undercut animal-based meat on cost, because clean meat will require much less “feed,” water, and energy. We are also open-sourcing the clean meat field so scientists and companies don’t have to waste time and resources reinventing the wheel.
You have the unique opportunity to test new plant-based and clean meat in its infancy and sometimes pre-release. What are some of the foods you’ve tasted that you think have the potential to disrupt animal agriculture? Give us some names and a rundown on the taste tests so at least we can live vicariously through you until these foods are widely available.
There are many exciting plant-based meats in the pipeline, but then there are also many that are already on shelves. Alpha Foods’ products are very new but are already available pretty widely, and they are terrific. Hampton Creek is just about to launch their scrambled egg, no actual hens required. Tofurky’s new ham is great, and they also have some terrific new burgers (and their slow-roasted chick’n is amazing). Anyone who is not yet tried the Hungry Planet burger is in for a treat. And of course the Beyond Burger and the Impossible Burger are quite incredible.
Clean meat is probably a little ways from broad market availability, but of course, it is real meat, so it tastes exactly like the meat everyone is used to. As these new companies scale up and become price competitive with animal-based meat, the market will be transformed.
You have a new book coming out on Jan. 2, which you co-authored with Kathy Freston. What is the book about?
The book is called Clean Protein: The Revolution that Will Reshape Your Body, Boost Your Energy – and Save Our Planet. It’s basically a book about how to eat healthily, with a goal of helping readers have more energy, feel better, slim down (if they want that), and so on. We try to build on Kathy’s general theme of leaning into changes, not guilting or hammering people.
There are a couple of chapters that are particularly relevant to GFI – one chapter on plant-based meat and another chapter on clean meat. But mostly it’s about how to get the right sort of protein. And there are some great recipes, which were curated by our good friend, Jason Wyrick. We have been deeply gratified by kind reviews from people like Dr. Michael Greger, Dr. Dean Ornish, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, Dr. David Wiebers, and others. (To pre-order a copy on Amazon, click here.)
The book sounds terrific! I’m excited to read it. Thank you for your leadership and vision. You and your team are a tremendous asset to the cause of creating truly good food. (For more information or to get involved, visit GFI’s website.)