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Christie Lagally, founder and CEO of Rebellyous Foods in Seattle, discusses the importance of scaling up production for alternative meats, as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos invests $60 million into supporting environmentally friendly alternatives to traditional animal-based proteins. Lagally emphasizes the need for better manufacturing and production technology to increase the impact of alternative meats in the market, including plant-based products and cultivated meat made from lab-grown animal cells.

The Bezos Earth Fund is creating the Bezos Centers for Sustainable Protein in partnership with universities to research and develop ways to improve alternative protein production. This initiative is part of the Future of Food program, led by Andy Jarvis, aimed at addressing climate change. Lagally points out that while there are many companies in the alternative meat industry, investing in research and development is crucial to competing at the scale of the traditional meat industry.

The global quest for non-animal proteins is important for combating global warming, as agriculture accounts for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., with a significant portion coming from livestock. Investing in alternative proteins is essential for feeding the growing population while staying within planetary boundaries. Lagally stresses the importance of research and development in making alternative proteins successful in terms of taste, affordability, and health, in order to gain consumer acceptance.

Despite hype and investment in the sector in recent years, the alternative meat industry has faced challenges in product sales. While venture capital investment in the sector rose from $1.1 billion in 2018 to $6.8 billion in 2021, actual product sales have not met expectations. The Bezos funding for research centers comes at a crucial time for the industry, as it faces a lull in investor interest and consumer adoption. Rebellyous Foods received $9.5 million in funding last year, contributing to a total funding of $30 million.

Lagally highlights the history of academic research supporting traditional food production and the need for similar support in developing alternative proteins. The lack of university programs dedicated to alternative proteins highlights the importance of the Bezos Earth Fund’s investment in research centers. Lagally emphasizes the importance of designing solutions that can compete at the scale of the traditional meat industry in order to ensure the survival and success of the alternative protein industry.

Overall, the $60 million infusion into research and development for alternative meats by the Bezos Earth Fund is seen as a critical investment that will have a positive impact on maturing the sector. Lagally and other industry experts believe that continued research and development, as well as scaling up production capabilities, are vital to the success of alternative meats in the market. By addressing the challenges of taste, affordability, and consumer acceptance, alternative proteins have the potential to play a significant role in addressing climate change and feeding a growing population sustainably.

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