Lab-grown meat, called “clean meat” by its advocates, is one focus of a gathering that aims to encourage food technology innovation in the Seattle area. Plant-based meat alternatives are another focus.
The word “meat” conjures up an image of beef, or maybe chicken, or perhaps duck if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous. But what about the meat of a fruit, or meat of a topic?
Seattle engineer Christie Lagally thinks the term applies more broadly, and her research with the Good Food Institute is out to prove that a shift away from animal meat will help everyone.
The D.C.-based nonprofit is teaming up with University of Washington’s CoMotion center to host an event Monday about how entrepreneurs can get involved with food technology – and create “meat” alternatives.
Lagally, a former mechanical engineer at Boeing, is now a Good Food senior scientist and is focused on plant-based meats and “clean,” or lab-grown meats. The institute helps launch companies that focus on new food technologies.
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In San Francisco, Good Food helped fund Memphis Meats, which is growing meat in labs from the cellular level – animal meat, no slaughter required. The startup is developing the “world’s first chicken produced without the animal.”
Realistic plant-based substitutes for meat are catching on as well. The internet sensation Impossible Burger is designed to smell and taste like meat. It even “bleeds” like a beef burger.
Lagally, who is based in Seattle, points to San Francisco, New York, other places around the world where “sustainable food technology” is really taking off. But in Seattle, it hasn’t yet gotten big. She thinks the time is ripe.
Washington state already has a huge talent pool of agricultural scientists and resources, as well as a booming community of entrepreneurs.
“Washington state is actually a really prime location for food innovation, even more so than perhaps the rest of the country,” Lagally said. “…Here in Washington state, we are growing the proteins — the soybeans, the wheat, the chickpeas, the lentils, the white beans — all of the protein sources we need in order to make plant-based meat.”
Lagally points to sustainability issues that come along with farming animals for meat, as well as the feed that animals eat, which she believes could be instead used to feed humans across the world.
“Not to mention the huge benefit to human health,” she added.
Lagally knows it can be a tough sell. People are attached to what they eat, and that’s why she wants there to be appetizing alternatives in the form of “clean meat” and plant-based meats.
GFI and CoMotion are holding a panel discussion beginning at 5:30 p.m. Monday at CoMotion’s headquarters in the University District to discuss the emerging industry and how entrepreneurs can jump in the ring.