Imitation meat is just for bacon-deprived vegetarians, right? Bill Gates thinks otherwise. Writing on Mashable, Gates cites population growth and the environmental impact of raising animals for meat as reasons why everyone yes, even those who love In-N-Out double doubles to give fake meat a fair shake.
His argument, in essence, is not that fake chicken is more delicious than the real thing, it's that there soon won't be enough traditional protein to go around:
The global population is on track to reach 9 billion by 2050. What are all those people going to eat? With billions of people adding more animal protein to their diets meat consumption is expected to double by 2050 it seems clear that arable land for raising livestock wont be able to keep up ... For every 10 kilograms of grain we feed cattle, we get 1 kilogram of beef in return.
Often these arguments tend to aim squarely on industrial beef production, and the answer to this may be that we all need to eat less beef. But Gates suggests that through research, we may all come to enjoy chicken dinners without actual chicken, but with "the same 'mouth feel'" and taste as chicken.
Gates is nothing if not a pragmatist. Four years ago he sparked some controversy when he came out on the side of Monsanto with regards to using GMO crops to help fight starvation in the developing world, and recently he invested $25 million in a new biotech center devoted to GMO research outside Mexico City.
He's not necessarily thinking that American omnivores will give up eating meat in favor of these alternatives, but in the developing world and elsewhere, such products could prove huge. "We need to look for new ways to raise nutrition in the poor world," he says, "while shifting some of our choices in the wealthy world."
On a different note, he also points to the health impacts of our diets that could be solved through science, like a new salt alternative from Nu-Tek that's made with potassium chloride, has a fraction of the sodium, and tastes just like salt.
Below, watch as Maxime Bilet and Aaron Versoza, from Nathan Myrhvold's Modernist Cuisine team, make some "chicken" tikka masala using chicken-free tenders.
Bill Gates: Food Is Ripe for Innovation [Mashable]