#16: Pioneering a Fungi-based Meat Alternative to Sustainably Feed The Global Population w/ Paul Shapiro, CEO of The Better Meat Co

Hello! I’m Julian and I’m a Gen Z entrepreneur, software engineer, and podcaster. I am the fusion of an ambitious entrepreneur, a tech whiz, a futurist, a productivity aficionado, and a self-improvement junkie.
I am currently a Software Engineer at Facebook and the Co-Founder & CTO at a startup named Vize. Previously, I have interned with Facebook, LinkedIn, and Goldman Sachs. Learn about me at www.julianalvarez.me

Adversity can help make us stronger and achieve things that we wouldn’t have achieved if we hadn’t faced it in the first place.

– Paul Shapiro

By 2050, our globe will face the colossal challenge of accommodating 10 billion people. The million-dollar question is: how are we going to feed them? And how are we going to do it in a sustainable manner without killing the planet and without harming the animals that we share this planet with?

Paul Shapiro is the CEO of The Better Meat Co., the author of the national bestselling book, Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World, a 4x TEDx speaker, and the Host of the Business for Good Podcast. His business-to-business startup has pioneered a fungi-based alternative to animal meat that is much more sustainably produced, healthier, more affordable, and arguably even better tasting..

With a team that boasts 16 employees and funding rounds of over $10M, The Better Meat Co.’s innovative approach to plant-based proteins is transforming the food industry.

The way we treat farm animals today will be looked on by our descendants as something that was truly barbaric and repulsive.”

– Paul Shapiro

💬 Discussed in this episode…

● [02:59] Paul’s story and background on his food industry
● [05:57] Problems that come from meat consumption
● [12:02] Why ignorance is not bliss for meat consumers
● [15:20] Creating a sustainable, effective, and healthier meat alternative
● [18:23] The three verticals of existing meat alternatives and fungi-based meat
● [20:50] The fermentation process behind making mushrooms taste like meat
● [22:02] Advantages fungi-based meat has over plant-based meat
● [28:01] A time in Paul’s entrepreneurial journey where he felt like giving up
● [33:38] Major challenges The Better Meat Co. faced in funding and keys to success
● [36:39] How Paul raised $1.6 million in his first funding round
● [38:38] The one concept Paul would teach all young entrepreneurs
● [40:29] How Paul will invent the future

What PROBLEMS are The Better Meat Co. solving?

Our modern-day methods for feeding our growing population are unsustainable.

The main culprit? Raising livestock to satisfy the increasing demand for meat as nations become more developed (and hungrier for meat).

Despite the boom of interest in plant-based meat consumption, traditional meat consumption is on an upward trajectory. Unfortunately, this involves major environmental, animal cruelty, and health implications.

Additionally, the UN recently projected that increasing demand for animal protein will likely trigger the next pandemic. Factory farms with windowless warehouses and crammed chickens are the perfect conditions to cultivate a virus.

14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions are traced back to animal farming practices. It’s no secret that raising animals necessitates more land, more water, more plants, and more resources from our solitary planet. To make matters worse, raising animals is one of the leading causes of deforestation and it drives climate change, biodiversity loss, and more.

Animal cruelty and disregard for their health are more widely prevalent than most meat consumers are cognizant of. Ignorance is not bliss when your hard-earned dollars are supporting the barbaric treatment of animals (and contradicting your personal values).

🛠️ What is The Better Meat Co.’s SOLUTION?

Pioneering a food technology to grow meat through fungi and not animals.

Their startup leverages fermentation to subject common ingredients like potatoes to convert them into meat-like products in less than a day. Compared to cows that require 14 months to two years to be ready for slaughter, their microbial protein can be harvested within 24 hours. Rather than using plants, their secret ingredient is fungi, which has a much meatier texture and has been used as a meat replacement for centuries.

Like a chicken eats corn, their microscopic fungi eats potatoes and converts that starch into protein. Within hours, their potato content evolves exponentially from ~1% protein to ~45% protein.

That’s the magic of using fermentation. You can really rapidly transform these common ingredients into something that works much better for you.

– Paul Shapiro

They sell this meat alternative as an ingredient to food companies, who are leading competitive market formation around their products on both taste and cost factors.

🌎 What is The Better Meat Co.’s VISION?

A vastly more diverse portfolio of proteins to choose from.

From microbial proteins to animal cell culture and plant proteins, the future culinary experience is about to become much more riveting. Long-term, protein consumption will imprint a smaller footprint on our Earth and we’ll rid our consciences of the horrible treatment of livestock. Numerous new methods will be invented for devising a meat-like experience for humanity. Our world will be better off in a multitude of ways.

Essentially, The Better Meat Co. will forget a more mutually beneficial relationship between the planet, our animals, and human beings.

Growing meat without animals is the pathway forward to a better relationship with the planet and the animals we share this planet with

– Paul Shapiro

💣 3 Value Bombs

💥 1. “Life is not about how hard you can hit. It is about how hard you can get hit and still keep moving forward,” – Rocky Balboa. Be cool when you’re up and cool when you’re down. In the thick of a crisis, don’t throw a pity party and focus on achieving your goal. When your mission is grand, powerful, and potentially massively impactful, the challenges, problems, and setbacks are simply road bumps. When something matters to you, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor. Adversity makes us stronger and helps us achieve greater feats than we could have ever imagined.
💥 2. 90% of startups fail. So your early investors will be friends, family, and fools—gamblers. They’re investing in you, not the startup. Build your network before you need it. Let this fuel you with a special obligation to succeed, knowing that your personal connections believe in your vision. Following funding rounds will make or break your startup’s scalability, so be meticulous with your pitches and presentation.
💥 3. Your barriers are largely mental. Your mind is solidifying the belief internally that “you can’t do it.” Most people who have successfully built business empires had no prior experience that qualified them for those roles. What sets them apart is their desire to make a difference in the world. Don’t paralyze yourself with analysis. Learn, but more importantly, play the game.What are the solutions to this problem so I can keep moving forward and achieving our goal of reducing humanity’s footprint on the planet?

📚 People & Resources Mentioned 

Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World book by Paul Shapiro
● Purdue Farms (Purdue Chicken Plus product line)
Fantastic Funghi documentary
● Rocky Balboa (philosopher)

📱 Socials

Paul Shapiro’s LinkedIn
● Paul Shapiro’s Instagram
● Paul Shapiro’s Twitter
● Clean Meat Book’s Website
● The Better Meat Co.’s Website
● The Better Meat Co.’s Instagram
● Business For Good Podcast Website

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