The Rich Roll Podcast: 8 reasons for public investment in planet-friendly protein

GFI Executive Director Bruce Friedrich breaks down why governments and research institutions should be as excited about plant-based and clean meat as venture capitalists and the private sector are. Maybe even more excited.
Bruce friedrich and rich roll

Blog readers, gather ’round for GFI Executive Director Bruce Friedrich’s latest interview with thought leader and plant-powered ultrarunner Rich Roll. (Missed Bruce’s first interview on the Rich Roll Podcast? Find it here.

In this long-form conversation, Bruce breaks down why governments and research institutions should be as excited about plant-based and clean meat as venture capitalists and the private sector are. Maybe even more excited.

In Bruce’s words, “It shouldn’t be Sand Hill Road venture capitalists with a bit of VC money from Tyson Foods and Cargill…that are seeding plant-based meat and clean meat. It’s a solution to really big problems that governments care about. Governments should be sinking a lot of money into this.”

Here’s why:

1. Societies will need to adopt plant-based and clean meat for governments to have a shot at meeting the Paris Agreement goals. Does the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent report keep anyone else up at night? We’ve got about a 12-year window to mitigate impending climate disaster. Transforming conventional animal agriculture is a solution already at our fingertips.

 2. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations are potent incubators for antibiotic-resistant bacteria. According to the UK government, the end of working antibiotics is a more certain threat than climate change. In the post-antibiotics world, a small cut or a stubbed toe could be deadly.  

3. Transforming conventional animal agriculture will create different and better jobs. Slaughterhouses create some of the most difficult and dehumanizing working conditions. Working on the poultry processing line is no cake walk either. I’ll let Oxfam tell you more about that.

4. Funding for public research is slim on the ground and urgently needed to avoid duplicating efforts. In clean meat, for example, there are roughly 30 different clean meat companies working to solve the same problems and all protecting their IP. Sure, that’s how business works, but that’s not efficient. We need open access research to elevate the entire field. (P.S. GFI is working on this. Check it.)

5. The research opportunities are profound. For instance, wheat and soy have been the go-to ingredients for plant-based meat because these were the byproducts of the existing supply chain. Producers have only scratched the surface of which other crops are better suited for the job. The plant kingdom awaits our exploration!! 

6. Scientific talent is a bottleneck for plant-based and clean meat innovation. There’s an impressive amount of venture capital flowing into these spaces. We need more talent to keep pace. Calling all tissue engineers and plant biologists: you can do a boatload of good—and make a lovely living—while transforming the nature of meat production. 

7. Leading meat producers like Tyson, Maple Leaf, PHW, Bell Foods, and Cargill are invested in and enthusiastic about plant-based and clean meat. The top meat producers are reading the tea leaves and exploring these as ways to feed the world more sustainably (slash, also create more efficient systems with wider profit margins.) That’s a market signal everyone should clock.

8. The country that champions planet-friendly protein will be the vanguard of the next agricultural revolution. And this could/will happen much faster as soon as any single government—be it Singapore, China, or the U.S.—decides to put some muscle behind plant-based and clean meat research and development.  

Okay, are you convinced yet? Maybe, maybe not? Then clear your calendar, and luxuriate in this thoughtful, wide-ranging conversation. True to form, Rich Roll leaves no stone unturned in this discussion about plant-based and clean meat, where the industries are today, and where we need to go by 2050. Stream the audio interview or get the full effect with the video above.
Whatever the medium, treat yourself to this podcast.


Mary allen

Mary Allen GFI ALUM

Mary Allen is a science writer, creative strategist, and GFI alum focused on the intersection of sustainability and emerging technology. Find more of her work at