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Fake meat revolution has meat producers on the hop

Stashed in: Kleiner Perkins, Stanford, Bill Gates, @ev, World Hunger, World Hunger

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These meat alternatives could end up being cheaper than real meat. Buyers won't just be vegans but also carnivores simply looking for healthy, sustainable, cheap food.

So look out. If the alternatives to meat are tasty, healthier, cheaper, better for the environment and pose fewer ethical challenges, the result may be a revolution in the human diet.

"The next couple of years will be exciting ones," says Joseph D. Puglisi, a Stanford University professor of structural biology who is working on meat alternatives.

"We can use a broad range of plant protein sources and create a palette of textures and tastes - for example, jerky, cured meats, sausage, pork.

"The true challenge will be to recreate more complex pieces of meat that are the pinnacle of the meat industry," he added. "I believe that plausible, good-tasting steaks and pork loins are only a matter of time."

Puglisi is advising Beyond Meat, a start-up that is a leader in the field, with investments from Bill Gates and both Biz Stone and Ev Williams of Twitter fame, not to mention Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the venture capital firm that backed Google and Amazon. Beyond Meat says its sales are doubling each year.

"We're really focused on the mainstream," said Ethan Brown, the founder of Beyond Meat, over a lunch of fake chili, meatballs and hamburgers. It was a banquet of the bogus.

Brown, 44, is deeply concerned by climate change and spent eight years in a company making hydrogen fuel cells. But he read that livestock cause more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation industry, and he wondered if he shouldn't focus more on food.

He came across two University of Missouri scientists who had figured out how to realign plant fibresĀ into something more like meat, and began working with them. Brown founded Beyond Meat in 2009, and Whole Foods helped the company develop imitation chicken strips that were its first product.

At the beginning of 2013, its products were in 360 US stores; now they are found in 7500, and will soon be in Walmarts as well. Beyond Meat is aiming to get its products on pizzas and in fast-food restaurants and is targeting the average consumer.

"We want to create the next great American meat company," Brown says. "That's the dream."

Cheaper than real meat means a potential solution to world hunger, right?

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