scottweathers

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There are *a bajillion* jobs working on plant-based foods right now

Great question!

Among the companies I've spoken with, technical positions seem to be a huge bottleneck, so I'd imagine those being the highest impact. In this industry, I'm considering technical positions to generally have titles like food scientist, research/process associate, bioprocess engineer, food technologist/developer, etc. This bottleneck seems especially intense among clean meat companies, so if you have a relevant background, I'd strongly encourage you to apply.

Beyond that, it's hard for me to guess exactly which positions are highest impact.

Lessons Learned from a Prospective Alternative Meat Startup Team

Good question! And thanks for your point, we should have linked to definitions of terms.

I think that we were able to conduct effective technical research in this space largely because we spoke to a ton of founders of companies and thoroughly read the published scientific literature. Additionally, we split up tasks to maximize specialization/expertise within each domain that we cared about. Those would be my two primary pieces of advice. We did not have a strong background in these subjects before beginning, so I would not let that deter you from diving in.

Companies obviously don't want to share their trade secrets, so you can't expect to learn everything about the field but a dedicated EA, especially with a strong science background, can develop a strong enough understanding to make a career-relevant decision about the state of the field.

Lessons Learned from a Prospective Alternative Meat Startup Team

Hey, Jamie, thanks for your thoughts! I'll speak for myself, as our entire team hasn't had time to review your comment yet.

Your comparison to CE's approach is fair, although there are a number of differences. We did consider opportunities outside of plant-based/clean meat but I was not involved with the research at that point. Our decision criteria within this space was informed primarily by our judgment as EAs and as a team with experience in business/consulting of the factors likely to matter most for impact and success of the company.

I definitely agree that the broader conceptualization of impact is a critical framework to consider. However, I don't necessarily think that our two approaches are mutually exclusive. For example, a high-quality chicken/fish substitute could do just as much to advance the field of plant-based products as a high-quality burger (or perhaps even more, given the large number of beef products on the market now). We considered the factor you're highlighting to some extent in our decision-making, as you can see in our selection of developing a product in an Asian economy, which could spur the creation of new products/companies in this area if done successfully. Our approach in clean meat - to focus on intermediary technologies, e.g. cell lines, media formulations, etc. is also informed by your approach, as this likely would do more good by advancing the field as a whole than by having direct impact.

Rethink Priorities Plans for 2019

Great to see such a strong focus on farmed animal welfare from a research organization! This list of prioritized questions looks strong to me. A few others worth considering:

  • Developing a stronger method of estimation for the number of broiler chickens and layer hens in corporate supply chains. I'd also like to see this done for fish. There is already a working group at animal groups focusing on this and I'm happy to put you in touch.
  • Estimating the rate of displacement of animal products from plant-based startups, e.g. Just (formerly Hampton Creek), Impossible Foods, MorningStar Farms, etc. This could have large implications on the degree to which EAs should focus on for-profit entrepreneurship.
  • Developing a prioritized list of states (or other countries) that would be most open to ballot initiatives to improve the lives of farmed animals, based on the wordings you test in surveys. I would particularly be interested in ballot initiatives that expand the Overton Window for what is possible in farmed animal welfare.
  • Identification of new tactics and strategies that mainstream advocacy organizations could implement beyond corporate campaigns (or variations thereof).
  • Estimation of the impact of "whole carcass utilization" by animal protein source. Theoretically, encouraging food companies to use the entire body of an animal (e.g. a chicken back or neck, as opposed to breast) could reduce their harm without changing the overall amount of meat they purchase. However, it could also be the case that the industry is so efficient at using the entire body of an animal that this would have no impact. I wouldn't prioritize this question high on your list, but the answer would be useful for my current work.

I hope this is useful! Let me know if you have any questions - happy to discuss further.

Looking for People Interested in Exploring Plant-Based Startups

Shoot me an email! We aren't at the stage to use many volunteers right now but we'd love to hear from you.

Looking for People Interested in Exploring Plant-Based Startups

Thanks! We started there and are definitely considering several ideas on that list.

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