In some ways, it must be great to be Bill Gates.
The multi-billionaire only has to open his mouth about any subject he chooses, and media rush to report his latest utterance—especially if it’s about a business deal or a potential investment idea.
After all, if he takes a shine to somebody’s new product or some promising start-up, that same day the principals could be rolling in dough.
Lots of dough.
Of course, being a billionaire also means you have to deal with hordes of people relentlessly banging on you for funding, but I’m sure Mr. Gates employs plenty of people whose primary job responsibility is to insulate the man from all that noise.
(By the way, I’ll be with a group that gets to tour the Gates Foundation offices in Seattle in a couple weeks—and possibly cross paths with the man himself. If so, you’ll be able to read all the details right here).
One of Gates’ latest investments is in a company claiming to have developed a fully functional meat alternative, a vegan-approved protein concoction that the founders of Beyond Meat claim is “freakishly similar” to meat.
Yes, it’s freakish all right.
So far, Beyond Meat has managed to market veggie “chicken” strips and “beef” crumbles. The principals, including Twitter co-founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams, have tried to walk back the criticism that they’re really just manufacturing glorified soy protein products, but in fact, their limited product mix is suitable only for the truly diehard vegetarian.
And, apparently, Bill Gates.
On his blog, The Gates Notes, he stated that he sees meat alternatives as “a big part of the future of food,” and shared his belief that food scientists are “starting to reinvent meat,” a development that he said “could help the whole world.”
Personally, I don’t take such statements all that seriously. That’s just the $66 billion-dollar portfolio talking.
The sustainability question
Of course, the Gates Foundation has been at the forefront of investing in agricultural productivity and has been a big supporter of biotechnology as a tool to accelerate food production. And yes, global meat consumption has doubled over the past two decades, due mainly to the expansion of Asian economies and the desirability of meat and poultry as a dietary upgrade for people who can afford it.
At the expected rate of growth, “The world will need millions of tons more meat than it does today,” Gates wrote. The obvious implication is that ramping up global meat production will require a lot more resources such as farmland, water and energy, which he feels is unsustainable.