Bill Gates: Food industry innovation crucial for health and food security

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Only about 8% of plant proteins have been explored as potential meat alternatives, says Gates
Only about 8% of plant proteins have been explored as potential meat alternatives, says Gates
Our approach to food is ripe for reinvention – and the food industry is just at the beginning of what it can achieve through innovation, according to Microsoft mogul and co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates.

Gates says that it seems clear that livestock production will not be able to keep up with growing global demand for meat and dairy, writing in a recent post for Mashable​ – and he says that is one reason he is ‘excited’ about innovations in the food industry, particularly in the area of meat alternatives.

“There’s quite a lot of interesting physics, chemistry and biology involved in how food tastes, how cooking changes its taste, and why we like some tastes and not others,”​ he says.

Gates singles out Beyond Meat as a particularly interesting meat analogue example, saying that he honestly couldn’t tell it from real chicken.”​ He’s in good company; New York Times food writer Mark Bittman has also said he was fooled by the product.

Made from a dry mix of soy and pea powders, carrot fiber and gluten-free flour, it has been making waves among vegetarians (and vegans) in the United States. The mix is cooked, cooled and extruded to simulate the texture of chicken, including a realistic meat-like shear when pulled apart, and is the result of more than a decade of research by Dr Fu-Hung Hsieh and his colleagues at the University of Missouri.

Meanwhile, Nu-Tek’s potassium chloride-based salt replacer​ was among ingredients highlighted for their potential to improve health, alongside egg replacers and low-fat cheese.

“All this innovation could be great news for people concerned about health problems related to overconsumption of fat, salt and cholesterol. It’s important too in light of the environmental impacts of large-scale meat and dairy production,”​ he wrote.

However, Gates is most interested in ways to change how we think about protein, to recognise that plants contain plenty of protein, and animals don’t have to be the main dietary source.

“Our approach to food hasn’t changed much over the last 100 years. It’s ripe for reinvention. We need to look for new ways to raise nutrition in the poor world while shifting some of our choices in the wealthy world.

“Fortunately, there are thousands of plant proteins in the world, and many of them have yet to be explored for use in the production of meat alternatives. Current investigations of the world’s vast array of plant proteins could fundamentally reshape our food supply for the better.

“I’m hopeful that we can begin to meet the demand for a protein-rich diet in a new way. We’re just at the beginning of enormous innovation in this space.”

Click here​ to read Gates’ full article.

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6 comments

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Food innovation that makes better sense

Posted by Mary-Jo Overwater, MSC,MMSC,RD,

Although it seems counter-intuitive that more 'artificial foods' would be helpful to our world, in fact, I think that these types of innovations are MUCH better than pouring more money, time, and energy (no pun intended) into R&D, marketing,etc. on junk foods and drinks -- which has been the emphasis for,certainly, the last 50, if not 100 years. We've been whinging about 'BigFood' and how it's contributed to widening the gap -- our global waistlines, for sure -- but also the divide between the 'haves' and 'have-nots' in the world and has contributed to the world hunger-obesity paradox. Why not be open-minded and give this strategy a chance. It actually looks like the innovations briefly described here are no more 'artificial' than the production of many foods today -- healthy foods, too -- fruit, veg, dairy, grains, lean protein sources -- not just all the hi-fat/sugar/sodium processed foods. And if these foods described here actually use and enable higher consumption of plant-based sources, I see this as a good thing. I'm not going to be accusatory and negative until I see more results on the products themselves -- their manufacture, their nutrient value -- both intrinsically and in application-- and how they can play a role in equitably optimally nourishing the peoples of the world, regardless of SES,race,creed, geographical location.

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Real food!

Posted by Maryann,

I certainly wouldn't want to eat something developed in a laboratory vs. nature. what will it do to the body after a long period of time. Besides too much soy messes w/ all the hormones in the body. Buy the best you can afford, prepare it the best to your ability and eat & drink in moderation!

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Eat less meat and more vegetables

Posted by Helmut Beierbeck,

Eat less meat and more vegetables, and you'll be healthier for it. We need more food-like substances like we need a hole in the head!

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