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Revolutionizing Vegan Alternatives: Paul Shapiro of The Better Meat Co. Discusses Clean Meat




Welcome to the Glen Merzer show, where we delve into thought-provoking discussions that challenge the status quo. In this episode, we're thrilled to host Paul Shapiro, CEO of The Better Meat Company and author of the national bestseller "Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World."


Paul's journey is as captivating as it is inspiring. From his early days as an advocate for animal rights to his groundbreaking work in clean meat technology, his passion for reducing animal suffering has remained unwavering.


During the interview, Paul shares insightful anecdotes and thought-provoking perspectives. One particularly memorable moment is when he humorously reflects on his newfound friendship with Glen, joking about their potential familial connection.


As Paul delves into his journey towards a plant-based lifestyle, he emphasizes the pivotal role of compassion and awareness. Growing up in a household that prioritized animal welfare, Paul's transition to vegetarianism was a natural progression. His realization that the suffering experienced by farm animals mirrored that of beloved pets propelled him towards a life dedicated to advocacy.

Paul's advocacy extended beyond personal choices to legislative action, where he spearheaded initiatives to improve animal welfare laws. Despite these efforts, he recognized the limitations of traditional advocacy in addressing the root causes of animal exploitation.


It was this realization that led Paul to explore the transformative potential of clean meat technology. Drawing parallels to historical shifts driven by technological innovation, such as the transition from horse-drawn carriages to automobiles, Paul envisions clean meat as the next frontier in sustainable food production.


At The Better Meat Company, Paul and his team are pioneering the use of mycoproteins derived from fungi to create a wide range of meat alternatives. From burgers to chicken-like and fish-like meats, their innovative approach promises to revolutionize the food industry.


What sets clean meat apart is its ability to offer consumers the familiar taste and texture of traditional meat, without the ethical and environmental concerns associated with animal agriculture. By harnessing the power of technology, Paul aims to make cruelty-free dining accessible to all.


As we reflect on Paul's journey, it's clear that his commitment to compassion and innovation has the potential to reshape the way we think about food. Whether you're a staunch advocate for plant-based living or simply curious about the future of food, Paul's insights offer a compelling vision of a more sustainable and humane world.


Join us on The Glen Merzer Show as we continue to explore the intersection of veganism, technology, and culture. Together, we can pave the way towards a healthier, more compassionate future—one bite at a time.


Don't miss out on future episodes—subscribe to The Glen Merzer Show on your favorite podcast platform and visit RealMenEatPlants.com for more engaging content and updates. Together, let's embrace a plant-based lifestyle and make a positive impact on our health, the environment, and the welfare of animals.



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Glen Merzer: Welcome to the Glen Merzer show. You could find us across all your favorite podcast platforms. You could find us on YouTube. And please remember to subscribe. You could find us at RealMenEatPlants .com. I have a very special guest today. Paul Shapiro is the CEO of the Better Meat Company. He is the author of the national bestseller Clean Meat. How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World. He's a five -time TEDx speaker, and he's the host of the Business for Good podcast. In 2023, he was named a most admired CEO by the Sacramento Business Council. And I will add, he and I have been very good friends for about 72 hours. Paul, welcome to the show.


Paul Shapiro: I can't believe that you neglected, Glen, that we might also be biologically related. That's possible. 


Glen Merzer: That's possible. There we've looked into that and we have to go back several generations. But it is possible that you're my cousin. 


Paul Shapiro: You know, some people are my brother from another mother. You're my cousin from another mother. There you go. Yeah. 


Glen Merzer: So, Paul, let's start with your journey. When did you go vegetarian or vegan? And how did this become your career to create a healthier meat?


Paul Shapiro:  I'm very happy to answer that question directly, Glen, but I would be remiss if I did not point out that you have occupied one of my favorite professions, which is that of a stand -up comedian. And my wife and I go to see stand -up comedy often, which is a very lively scene in Sacramento where we live. But… Because I know that you have a love for jokes and humor, I'm gonna tell you one of my favorite jokes just to start out here so that you'll get one of my all time favorites. I did not make it up, but did you hear? 


Glen Merzer: All right, ladies and gentlemen, a little stand up from Paul Shapiro. Give him a hand.


Paul Shapiro: Glen, did you hear about the Christian missionary who went to Africa to convert people to Christianity? He was walking out on the savanna and he felt this tension in his back. And he looked behind him and his worst nightmare came true. There was a lion stalking him. So he starts walking. The lion starts walking. He starts jogging. The lion starts jogging. He starts sprinting. The lion is now sprinting after him. Missionary thinks there's only one thing he can do. The best thing he knows how to do drops to his knees and prays. He says, dear God, please let this be a Christian lion. And all of a sudden the lion stopped sprinting, drops to his knees, crosses his paws. And he looks up to the sky and he says, dear heavenly father, I thank thou for this meal that thou has prepared us before me. 


Glen Merzer: Pretty good. Yeah, man. Where did you hear that one?


Paul Shapiro: Gosh, it's probably something that my grandfather told me a very long time ago. So, you know, I have, there's many things that I'm quite deficient at, but remembering jokes is not one of them. So like, I really remember like the whole repository of jokes that I've heard. I don't tend to make up material, but I can remember them pretty well from what other people tell me. But if you think I'm gonna get, you know, get a gig at the improv, let me know. Maybe I'll change my career, but I...might have to stick with alternative proteins for now. 


Glen Merzer: In the middle of that joke, it reminded me of a joke I used to do in San Francisco that I wrote. I'm ready. I said, you know what I like to do sometimes when people are walking down the street? I like to walk right next to them. So I find that what happens is they speed up. So then I speed up and then they slow down. So I slowed down and then they speed up. So I speed up. And I find that when you do this long enough, people will eventually just stop and give you their money. 


Paul Shapiro: So that's good. 


Glen Merzer: Haven't told that joke in 30 years or more, but it's good. No, you dusted it off. Well, that's very good. 


Paul Shapiro: All right. Thank you for it. 


Glen Merzer: It reminds me a little bit of, um, Bill Burr, who is a very funny comedian, has a lion in the hair. So I have a pit bull as a pet. He has a pit bull as a pet. He talks about how he loves walking down the street with his pit bull because he's never felt more like a king than when he walks with his pit bull. Everybody moves to the other side of the street. Nobody wants to talk to him. Everybody gives him a lion birth. He says, it's like the closest thing I have to feeling like royalty ever is walking down the street. And the whole sea is the part for me anywhere I go.


Paul Shapiro: Well, pit bulls are very controversial subjects. So let's go right to the controversial subject. 


Glen Merzer: OK. You know, some people say pit bulls, they bite, they hurt people. Pit bulls aren't a good pet. What do you say to those people? 


Paul Shapiro: You know, I've had two and I have fostered many. 100 % of them have been friendly. Now, of course, I don't think animal shelters are gonna give out to foster homes aggressive dogs, right? Aggressive dogs are not likely to make it out alive from animal shelters. So there's a bit of self -selection here. They are stronger than many dogs. They're just incredibly strong animals. However, my experience with them is that they're overwhelmingly friendly, overwhelmingly loving, and that if they're treated kindly, they make amazing family pets. And so my wife and I have fostered probably half a dozen pit bulls in the last few years. And, um, I'm a big fan of them now, you know, any, any dog, no matter the breed who's aggressive is a real problem for somebody to have. And you have to handle that very appropriately. But all the pit bulls in my life have been quite the opposite. And in fact, you know, maybe about a year ago, my dog actually got bit by a golden retriever and he just cried. didn't even bite back. I kind of wanted him to fight back honestly. I was like, you got to stand up for yourself, buddy. But he wouldn't. So it's pretty interesting. I think the maligning of pit bulls is unjust. It's not to say that there haven't been cases where abused animals lash out. That obviously can happen. And because they are so much stronger than many other breeds, that can be a concern. But there's always the villain of the day, right? If it's not pit bulls, before it was rottweilers or dobermans and Many people who have those dogs know them to be quite loving as well. So I love pit bulls and they're a lot of fun and I love wrestling with my dog, Eddie. And if you want to see more about, if you want to see more about his life and videos of him, he's on Instagram. He's Eddie the pity it's E D D I E the pittie P I T T I E. So check out Eddie the pittie. If you want to see what my pit bull looks like and how he interacts with children and the elderly, I think you'll have a fun time.


Glen Merzer: Right. 


Paul Shapiro: Okay, now let me answer your question directly here. You asked me how I got into this and actually it's a perfect segue here because it has to do with dogs. So I grew up in a house where my mom worked at our local animal shelter. And so I was very sensitized to the plight of dogs. We'd always had three or four rescue dogs at a time. And it's a household that...you know, you were told, I mean, even, you know, my mom would say all the time, like even in the Talmud, they said, you have to feed your animals before you feed yourself. So we had to feed the dogs before we ate dinner ourselves. Like, so this was a very dog friendly household. And at the time, you know, this is now, you know, 30 plus years ago, I perceived that as meaning it's an animal friendly household, but it really was a dog friendly household and didn't really bleed into other species. So a friend of mine showed me,video. It was like a VHS tape. Now you might of course know what a VHS is, but for your younger listeners, it was a rectangular piece of plastic that you slid into a machine and you watched a video, right? And it showed what happened to animals on factory farms and in slaughter plants. And as I was sitting there watching these animals who were terrified for their lives, who were suffering immensely, I thought, you know, what would I do if those were my dogs, right? If instead of pigs or chickens or turkeys or cows, what if they were my dogs?who were hanging upside down and having their throats cut open. And so I thought, of course, there's nothing I wouldn't do. There's nothing I wouldn't do to prevent that from happening to my own dogs. And so therefore I thought, why should it happen to any? And so at that time I became a vegetarian. Now I didn't know what vegan was. I was very young, I was like 13 years old. And so I wrote to the animal protection organizations for more information about vegetarianism. And so they sent me back literature and I learned that there was this thing, called Vegan, right? V -E -G -A -N. And I thought of that Vegan as my understanding. And I thought, you know, it seemed like a noble thing to do, but I also thought it seemed like impossible, right? It seemed kind of like holding your breath. But you know, you can hold your breath for a long time, but if you do it too long, you're going to die. And I thought maybe that's what one of these vegans is like, right? They can not eat animal products for a certain amount of time, but you do it too long, you're probably going to die. So then I went to volunteer for one of these organizations and I met people who I learned were called vegans. And many of them have been doing it for a really long time, years on end. And I thought, wow. And then I read this interview that they gave me with Carl Lewis. Now for your younger fans, Carl Lewis was like the top Olympian of that era, right? He was like the Usain Bolt or the Michael Phelps, like the number one Olympian, the best athlete in the world as far as I was concerned. I had a poster of him in my room in my parents' house when I was growing up. I really idolized Carl Lewis. And Carl Lewis said that he not only was vegan, but that the years that he, after he became vegan, he started winning more gold medals. I thought, you know, first of all, not only is this a good thing to do for animals, but now the number one athlete in the world, as far as I was concerned, is a vegan and saying it improves his athletic performance, I was in. And so that was in 1993. And I became vegan and my parents were very concerned about my health, but they thought at least it would just be a fad. And a few decades later, the fad continues and my parents are pretty close to being vegan themselves, actually. So it's been a fun time. 


Glen Merzer: And did your parents willingly go more and more plant based? 


Paul Shapiro: Yeah, at first they were pretty opposed to it, to be honest with you.they were very concerned because back then, you know, people didn't know much. There was no internet. You couldn't look up things. It was just, you know, like they were very like raised in the four food groups type mentality. And so they were just thinking like, this is not good for anybody. Let it learn a growing teenager. And so they got out a copy of the yellow pages, which for your younger listeners is what Google was before we had Google. And they looked up a nutritionist and they just looked up one who was located near us. And they asked me to go see her. I didn't even know what a nutritionist was. I never heard of it. And I mean, honestly, Glen, it's just like by, you know, divine intervention. We went to this nutritionist again in 1993 in Rockville, Maryland. And by the sheerest of coincidences, she herself was vegan. I mean, it's like unbelievable to me, truly unbelievable. And so that was really helpful. And then when I started, you know, bringing other vegans into my life and meeting my parents, I think they realized like, hey, you know, maybe this isn't a cult and maybe this is something that, you know, isn't gonna kill or stunt our child. But they became far more plant -based as time went on, especially my mom. We, I remember for my 16th birthday, she asked me what I want. And I said, I want to go to Farm Sanctuary in Mockenswine, New York. And she brought me, to Watkins Glen and we went. And since that day, this is now in like 1996, she has never eaten a land animal since. And she claims that if they had rescued fish there, she might be a full vegetarian. So, you know, that's now like 25 years ago or so that she became a near like a pescatarian. And my father is pretty close also. So I'd say probably like, my guess is like 85 % of their calories come from vegan sources now. And they're both living in their mid to eight seventies and and, you know, they're getting along. So I'm very glad for that. 


Glen Merzer: So how do you go from becoming a vegan as a teenager to getting interested in creating a cleaner form of meat? 


Paul Shapiro: Well, it's it's a quixotic journey, to be honest with you, Glen. So let me give you the very abbreviated. It's not going to be question. It's going to be glen's notes here for you. So the Glen Note version is the following. I was very passionate when I became interested in animal protection. And I had this zeal of like a religious convert, you know, like always the converts are always far more pious than those who are born into something. And so there was no, when I entered high school, there was no animal rights club. So I started one, it's called Compassion Over Killing. And I ran that as a high school club at first, and then brought it out to a, city -wide organization and then eventually a nationwide organization. And I ran that through my high school and college years and we would do things that were pretty strident. We would, you know, I did things like undercover investigations at factory farms and slaughter plants posing as an employee, taking hidden camera footage of showing what happens to these animals in these facilities. And my theory of change back then was that if people only knew how poorly animals were treated in the food system, things would change. It's kind of like that, that cliche saying, which is if slaughterhouses had glass walls, we'd all be vegetarian. The same thing. Yes. Yeah. Yes. I know public public card. He has said it. I don't know whether he invented it or not, but either way he has definitely said it. Sadly, no matter who said it, it's not true. Most people who watch a slaughter plant video do not go vegetarian. Obviously. And so I was.you know, making these videos and we were getting a lot of news attention. I mean, our stories were on CNN and the New York Times, the Washington Post, and we're really generating a lot of attention on the plate of animals who are raised for food. But sadly, we were not actually effectuating much change and meat demand every single year continued rising. And the percentage of Americans who identified as vegetarian or vegan was stagnant. So I thought eventually after doing that for about 10 years, I thought, well, maybe what we need is public policies that are gonna codify public sentiment about animals into law. Most people, even though they eat meat, they don't want animals to be tortured. And so I thought maybe we could ban the worst practices, caging of animals so they can't even turn around or extend their limbs, cutting animals' body parts off without painkiller and so on. And so I became a lobbyist for animals and spent 13 years doing public policy campaigning. And we passed about a dozen laws in various states, cracking down on some of the most inhumane factory farming practices with ballot initiatives primarily where we put measures on the ballot for voters in California, Arizona, Massachusetts and more, where they could vote to make it a crime to treat pigs and chickens and cows in these deplorable ways that are common practice in the factory farming industry that you've written so eloquently about in mad cowboy and elsewhere. And after about 13, well, even long before I stopped doing that, I...started getting nervous around like 2015, 2016, when you saw the rise of companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods and Eat Just. And I started thinking, you know, what if food technology is going to do more to solve the problem that has animated my life for decades now? I mean, at that point, like two decades have gone by where I've been doing this and the trends were not good. Meat demand kept rising. The percentage of vegetarians again, remained stagnant, you know, for the last 30 years or so. The percentage of vegetarians in America have self -identified as saying a three to 5%. Vegans even less. It just hasn't changed. And per capita meat demand is pretty much at an all -time high. So it's not just that we're adding more people to the country. It's that per person meat demand has only gone up and up and up and up during the time since I became vegan. I mean, I remember reading PETA literature back in the mid -90s. lamenting that six billion animals were being put through slaughter plants in America each year. Well, today it's like 10 billion. And it's not that the human population has increased commensurately, that has increased, but not commensurately. What's happened is that people eat more meat on a per person basis today than before. So -


Glen Merzer:  And they're getting fatter and sicker and not living as long. 


Paul Shapiro: Yeah, that's one of the most unbelievable things. Like for the first time since like the modernization of our civilization, we have actually reduced longevity. It's like the trend was increased longevity, increased longevity, increased longevity. Now it's actually gone down. It's really sobering. But yes, I agree with you wholeheartedly. And so I started thinking, well, maybe food technology is gonna do more. And I started thinking about this. Like if you look at ways that animal exploitation has ended in the past, it's almost always technology. For thousands of years, we whipped horses to get around. Nobody stopped whipping horses because they cared about them. They stopped because cars were invented or what we originally called horseless carriages. Similarly, we harpooned whales for thousands of years to light our homes. Nobody stopped using whale oil because they cared about whales. It's not because kerosene was invented and it was a cleaner, brighter way to light our homes. And now we use electricity, which, you know, ran kerosene, obviously. 


Glen Merzer: Just for the record, Paul, I remember the VHS tapes. I don't remember the horseless carriages. 


Paul Shapiro: Okay, yeah, very good. Very good. I'm glad we stipulated that. Yeah.But you know, one other thing you won't remember, but had you been alive, you know, in the early 19th century, you know, everybody was using quill pens, you know, the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta, these were all, these were written, the Dead Sea Scrolls, they were written with quills. 


Glen Merzer: And I don't remember that. Yes. 


Paul Shapiro: So, you know, live geese were plucked for their quills, and it was a torturous thing. It would be a violation of anti -fruity laws today, honestly. But nobody stopped plucking geese for quills because they cared about geese. They stopped because metal fountain pens were invented and it was a much more efficient way to write. You didn't have to stop and dip your quill into an ink well. You didn't have to sharpen the quill tip. And now, of course, we don't really use metal fountain pens because we're tapping on glass screens. But the point is new technology rendered the former practice obsolete in all three of those cases. And there's many more. But just those are just three quick examples of horse labor, quill pens, and whaling. We had practiced them for literally millennia cornerstones of our economy. And within a matter of mere decades after a new invention, they were totally obsolete. I mean, imagine how shocked you would be today if you saw somebody using a quill pen or lighting their home with whale, right? Like, you'd be in shock. But yet that was the norm. And it only stopped because of new inventions. And so I started thinking, well, maybe there are new inventions that will do the same for chickens and pigs as these other technologies did for whales and horses. And I got very interested in it, but I wasn't sure what to do. I wasn't really sure. I wasn't a microbiologist. I wasn't a food scientist. I didn't have millions of dollars to invest in venture capital. I didn't have an MBA from Harvard. I was just a guy who was a lobbyist who was very passionate. So I thought maybe if I wrote a book about this, I could entice people who actually did have those skills to go into that field. And it was pretty hubristic. I did not. I haven't experienced publishing a book before. So I wrote a proposal and I pitched it. I got very fortunate. Just really condense it down here. But Simon & Schuster purchased the book. And when it came out, it did dramatically better than I ever would have dreamt. And it was transformational in my life. 


Glen Merzer: And it really book is called Clean Meat. Yes. And I would love to hold up a copy, but I read it on my Kindle. 


Paul Shapiro: Good for you. You're an environmentalist. 


Glen Merzer: Yeah. Yes. It was a best seller and it's a very compelling story of the sort of the race to create clean meat, lab meat, which we will talk about. But but it's the race towards that. 


Paul Shapiro: Great. Thank you. And I'm honored that you read it. It means a lot to me. But yes, the book is called Clean Meat, How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner in the World. And, you know, it did much better than I dreamt. And it really left me with two options. Either I could continue writing about the people who I thought were gonna solve this problem that again, and animated my life now for three decades, or I could just become one of them. And I chose the latter. And I actually thought about doing another book that would be the history of the plant -based meat movement, you know, going back to ancient China and to Kellogg in the 19th century, all the way up to the impossible burger. And I still think that's a great idea, actually. I hope somebody will write that book. It's a really riveting story, but. I decided to start my own company six years ago. It's called the Better Me Co. And I teamed up with a friend of mine who actually does have a Harvard MBA so that I could team up with somebody who knows what she's doing. Her name is Joanna Bromley. And I often joke that I may be the face of the company, but she's more like the brain of the company. So we've been running this company now for the last six years. And we can talk all about what we do, but essentially we grow mycoproteins or fungi proteins inside of stainless steel fermenters to grow whole food, all natural meat, alternative ingredients. But that's the last 30 years in a nutshell for you, Glen. So that every every chapter of my life, I hope I become more effective. But the goal, the North Star has remained the same during that whole time, which is to try to reduce the animals, reduce the suffering of animals, which has been really the whole premise of my life. 


Glen Merzer: Well, I am delighted with the the choice you made to to create burgers from mycoprotein, essentially from fungi. This is mushroom protein to create not just burgers, but chicken -like meat and fish -like meat and even foie gras-like meat, apparently.



Paul Shapiro: Maybe it'll be like the Model T. I don't know. I know that you say you weren't around for the transition to horseless carriages, but I noticed above your shoulder there you appear to have a horseless carriage on your bookshelf. 


Glen Merzer: Well, there's actually a story behind that. I'll get it for you. Hold on. OK.



Paul Shapiro: Oh wow, it's a lot bigger than I anticipated the depth to see. 


Glen Merzer: Here it is. And when you wind it up. It plays camp town races. Okay. Okay. So here's what happened.It's gonna play for a little while now in the background as I speak, but my father died in August...2009. And he was 89, almost 89 years old. And I had this, this antique little toy car up on my shelf, on my bookshelf in my home in Los Angeles. And I think it was about two or three weeks after he died, it started playing camp town races all by itself. Okay, wow. Amazing. So I have no explanation for that, but it was like he came to say hi one more time. 



Paul Shapiro: He wound it up. That's really nice. That's really nice. But yes, so first of all, sorry about your father. 


Glen Merzer: I know it's a long time ago. 


Paul Shapiro: You know, my condolences to you. Well, it's a long time ago now. Yes. But I'm glad you have that relic to remember him by for sure. Yeah. So, you know, I am, you know, to get to the meat of the matter, pun intended, you know, I believe that it would be wonderful if people wanted to switch to lentil soup, bean and rice burritos.hummus wraps. I love those foods. I eat a primarily whole foods plant -based diet myself. You know, my wife is a plant -based cookbook author who primarily works with whole foods as well. However, people do seem to want to eat meat. And so my goal is to find ways to recreate the meat experience for people in ways that are healthier for them and better for the planet and animals. And so that's why I've gone down this path. If I thought that people were going to be happy just to switch to lentil soup and the other foods I mentioned, it would be a lot easier. It would be much, much easier to do that than to try to harness the power of fermentation and other technologies to recreate the meat experience without animals. Sadly, I don't think that's what's going to win over humanity. I wish it were. And there are many people who I respect who think that that is possible. I would love to see the evidence. 


Glen Merzer: Well, let's divide lean meat into three types. First, there is the...the ongoing and as yet unrealized hope of many to create what they call lab meat, essentially working from the cells of animals to grow them in these bioreactors and create meat. 


Paul Shapiro: Yes. 


Glen Merzer: That is perpetually coming in five years and those five years appear not to be consecutive.


Paul Shapiro: I was thinking about your comment because you made this great comment to me a few days ago about that, how these five years are not consecutive. It's also not stipulated whether they are Earth years. That's right. It might be Saturn years, in which case it's going to be a while. 


Glen Merzer: There you go. So it never seems to arrive. And there are other criticisms I could make or skepticisms I have of the so -called lab meat. I'm not a believer.Nonetheless, I was compelled by reading your book about the other, the people who are believers and were racing towards it. I was in reading it. I would say, well, I don't trust this guy. This guy's interesting, but this guy seems naive and okay, but never. Still I go to the supermarket. There's no lab meat. Yes. The second type is the plant -based meat. And that of course exists. That's the impossible burger and the beyond burger and many other burgers that I get one in the grocery store that has really clean ingredients and I'm forgetting what it's I think it's called the real plant burger or something like that and made from beets and some are made from nuts and some are made with mushrooms and some are made with seeds and all kinds of different plant foods. And then there's what you're doing. Mycoprotein. Fungi, not technically plants, and mushrooms have extraordinary health benefits. And this product that you have is extraordinarily high in protein and high in fiber. So I am a believer in the plant burgers and the mycoburgers. I don't, for myself, I don't eat the impossible burger and the beyond burger because they've got coconut oil and ingredients that I don't want. Um, but, um, I would love to see, uh, mycoprotein, uh, has become the substitute for me. 


Paul Shapiro: Yeah. Let me offer one quick comment for you, Glen. So you've, you've correctly identified like the three kingdoms, right? There's the plants, animals, and fungi. And we're trying to,get to the same end with each of those different kingdoms. It's kind of like energy, right? Like there's lots of ways to get energy without fossil fuels, wind, solar, geothermal, et cetera, right? But the end result is energy. You walk in a room, you flip a white switch, the light illuminates the room. You don't care, right? Whether it's coming from wind or solar or geothermal, you just want to be able to experience of an illuminated room. And the same as so when it comes to meet for most people, maybe not for you, maybe not for me, but for most people, Most people aren't sitting there thinking, oh, I'm so glad that an animal was slaughtered for this. They just want the experience of meat that is satiating, that they crave, that they enjoy the taste. It's cost -effective. Maybe they're thinking about getting protein, but probably they're just thinking it tastes really good. And I think I'm a supporter of all three of those ways, but I think some of them are more promising for the near term than others. I think that your criticism of cultivated meat or meat grown from animal cells that is never materializing is well -founded. This is an industry that has had a variety of timelines that have not been met. And it's gonna be a long time before such meat is on the market. Plant -based meat has been on the market for quite some time now. You know, really, I mean, honestly, more than a century, but it didn't really get to the new generation until maybe about five years ago or so, maybe seven years ago with the rise of the companies that you mentioned like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. you'll be pleased to know that the new Beyond Burger substituted out coconut oil in favor of avocado oil, by the way. So the new Beyond Burger - 


Glen Merzer: A slight improvement there. 


Paul Shapiro: Yeah. But, you know, these are good products. They're better for you than animal -based meat, right? They have no cholesterol. They have less saturated fat. Even the Beyond Burger, when it did have coconut oil, still had less saturated fat than a regular slaughter -based burger. And, you know, these are good products. If you're walking into -you know, a fast food restaurant and your choice is to get a conventional burger or a Beyond Burger, you're better off getting the Beyond Burger. That's not to say that it is the same as eating a kale salad or a quinoa wrap. Of course not. But it is to say that it is better than the conventional option. In the mycoprotein world though, going to what I do at the Better Meat Co, growing microbial fungi, you get the best of all worlds. You get a product that really is meat -like in its texture but is still an all -natural, whole food, fiber packed ingredient. You know, think about the way that you make Memphis meat today. Go to the Beyond Burger as an example, right? You gotta grow the field of peas, harvest the field of peas, mill it into a flour, but that flour is low in protein, so you gotta strip out the fiber, strip out the fat, concentrate it down into a pea protein powder that like an athlete might take as a supplement. And then you got something as protein rich, but it's not textured like animal meat. So you have to subject it to twin screw extrusion, which is a fancy way of saying lots of pressure and lots of heat that change of the texture of the protein. So it goes from being globular, like a plant protein to stringy, like an animal protein. And then you add, you know, 15 other ingredients to it and you get a Beyond Burger. So that's how you go from pea to a Beyond Burger. And that's why Beyond Burgers are a lot more expensive than beef, even though peas are much cheaper than beef because you're not using the whole pea. you're using a tiny little fraction of the pea and you're subjecting it to these expensive processes. With mycoprotein, though, on the other hand, with microbial fungi protein, you run a fermentation that within less than a single day creates an ingredient out of that fermenter that in its all natural, unprocessed, whole food state, not only has an extremely meat -like texture, but has more protein than eggs, more iron than beef, more zinc than beef more fiber than oats, more potassium than bananas, and it naturally contains vitamin B12, which is typically lacking in a plant -based diet. So you get all the things about meat that you want, protein, iron, zinc, texture, and so on, but you don't get the things you don't want, cholesterol, saturated fat, animal cruelty, environmental degradation, and more. And that ingredient can be used either as a whole food, single ingredient, alternative meat, like strips of chicken in a burrito. Or you can add other ingredients to it and make it into things like a steak or a burger and so on. That's fiber and protein packed. Now you already know this, Glen, so I'm speaking to your audience and not necessarily you here, but nobody in America, for the most part, is protein deficient. However, nearly everybody in America is fiber deficient. Fiber deficiency is rampant. More than 90 % of Americans don't get the RDA for fiber. And our RDA in the US is lower than in other industrialized countries, which are more realistic. But we don't even meet the meager American standards. And where do you get fiber? You don't get it from animals. Animals, we have skeletons that hold us up. Plants and fungi don't have skeletons. They have fiber. That's what holds them up. And so that's why no matter what type of meat you're eating, whether it's grass -fed, organic, whatever, there's zero grams of fiber. Zero grams. Because animals don't have fiber. However, plants and fungi do. And the fungi that we grow, which is called mycelium or the root -like structure of fungi is actually packed with fiber and it's intact, great fiber, rich in beta -glucans, which are shown to be really good for your microbiome. And so this is a really wonderful food that you can add to your diet. The problem is that while we can produce this in our fermentation system here in Sacramento or on base, we can only produce thousands of pounds. We can't produce millions of pounds. So we are not in a position yet to be able to put this on the market nationwide we have to raise the capital necessary to build much larger fermentation systems in order to do that. And so once we do that, we'll build much bigger fermenters and then you'll see Better Meat Co. ingredients in products nationwide. But today we're still working really at what I would consider a pilot scale in Sacramento that proves that the technology works and it's ready to be scaled, but it's just not there yet.


Glen Merzer:  All right, we're gonna take a quick break and we'll come back and I'll ask Paul more about the products that he can create. from mushrooms. We'll be right back. All right, we're talking with Paul Shapiro, the founder and CEO of the Better Meat Company. The website is bettermeat .co. And if you go to that website, you will see very enticing looking types of what looks like animal foods, but they are fungi foods. So, Paul, on your website, there are pictures of meat balls and ground beef and jerky and foie gras, the only legal foie gras in California, I'll add. And out of curiosity, did you have any reservation about even calling it foie gras because foie gras has a bad reputation?


Paul Shapiro:  It's a bad reputation among people like you and me. It does not have a bad reputation among people who go to fine dining restaurants. And ironically, I was involved in the passage and implementation of the law in California that bans the sale of foie gras. So for me, it's quite a nice 


Glen Merzer: You created a monopoly for yourself. 


Paul Shapiro: Yeah, if I only knew at the time. Now, every victory has a thousand parents and I was only one part of a lot of people who were part of that, but I did work on it and I'm very proud to have worked on it. And there are other places now, in the world and country that have modeled their laws after that. So for example, just recently Pittsburgh passed a law banning the sale of foie gras. New York has done something similar, New York City rather. So there's a trend setting thing here going on to that. Now, of course, the vast majority of people have never and will never eat foie gras, right? Like the number of animals used for the foie gras industry is very small compared to use for let's say chicken or beef or pork and so on. But it's a very inhumane practice.that necessitates the force feeding of these ducks or geese in a way that most people don't want to hear about. But with mycoprotein, we're able to replicate that rich, buttery feel of foie gras in the mouth that doesn't involve using fowl at all. It's a fowl. 


Glen Merzer: What do you do to make it taste fatty, which I guess is what people want in their foie gras?


Paul Shapiro:  Yes, that's exactly right. Foie gras is an extremely fatty product. It's extremely fatty. And so, you know, this is something that, you know, people call it a heart attack on a plate because it's very, very calorically dense. Now, to answer your question directly, you know, the mycelium that we grow has very little fat in it. So if you want to turn it into something like a chicken breast, it's very low fat. It's perfect for that. If you want to turn it into something like a hamburger that's fatty or even foie gras, which is even fattier, you have to add fat to it. So in the case of our foie gras product, you know, that basically is mycelium combined with cocoa butter. and it does melt on your tongue in a way that is delectable. However, I recommend eating it in small quantities. You know, it's pretty rich. And, you know, for people like you and me who don't like eating a lot of saturated fat, you know, I would eat it more limitedly. It is better for you than foie gras in terms of, you know, less cholesterol, less saturated fat and so on. But it is still a product that is more of a delicacy rather than a staple. 


Glen Merzer: And it's far better for the geese.


Yes, for sure. 


Glen Merzer: Have you ever tried using whole food fats like nuts and seeds and avocado? 


Paul Shapiro: Actually, yes. So we, for a long time, we're making it with cashews. And so that was a way to make it. Cashews are very expensive, to be honest with you. And so that became prohibitive for us. But the original iterations of the mycelium base foie gras were essentially cashews plus mycelium.


Glen Merzer: So if people go to the website and look at these beautiful fungi meats, you'll see very enticing images, but those are not currently for sale in any supermarkets around the country. I understand that just in a few restaurants in the Sacramento area, you can get them. Is that right?


Paul Shapiro: That's exactly right. When we run a pilot scale facility here, we cannot supply enough mycelium for nationwide supermarkets from this facility. So we make applications like a steak made from our mycelium. It's highly popular. People love it. And we put them on restaurant menus in our area, primarily to showcase the versatility of the ingredient so that people can see what it would actually look like in the wild. The problem for us is that we don't have much larger fermenters. And it's a lot of stainless steel that you need to buy. So we're currently in the process of raising a capital round to be able to afford larger fermenters that would enable us to produce a lot more mycelium and actually make ingredients for companies that could put a mycelium based steak on restaurant menus nation or grocery store shelves nationwide as well. 


Glen Merzer: Now, how does your dog like this food?


Paul Shapiro:  What a good question. So I have a I call it the Eddie test. My dog, Eddie, again, for those of you who will remember from the beginning of the interview, he's a pit bull. and he's very finicky. He will not eat fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds. He doesn't like plant -based meat. If I give him a Beyond Burger, he won't eat it. But if I give him a mycoprotein steak from the Better Me Co, he devours it. And I don't tell him, I don't tell him what it is. So he's blind, right? I don't let him know that this is not actual steak. And he still loves to eat it. So I enjoy doing that. I...I consider every gram that we make sacred because demand so far vastly exceeds supply. So I don't like to use a lot with him, but for testing purposes, I definitely try it out on him because I view him as a very valuable focus group for us. 


Glen Merzer: So the any test. Right. It on other dogs as well or only Eddie. 


Paul Shapiro: Yeah, yes. We've conducted a lot of animal experimentation in the form of the employees dogs who try the product and it's universally popular. 


Glen Merzer: How about cats?


Paul Shapiro: I don't think we've ever tried it with cats. That's an interesting question. I presume a cat would eat a steak, obviously. That's what cats in nature eat. So we'll do it. Now we have people here who work here who have cats, so we should try that out. I'll let you know when I'll report back. All right. We'll have to tune back in for that answer. 


Glen Merzer: So what is the business model since you're not currently up to scale to produce this meat to go into grocery stores around the country. And again, when I say meat, fungi, meat, mycoprotein. What's the business plan? How do you how do you scale this up? 


Paul Shapiro: Sure. So we are a B2B or business to business ingredients company. Think about the if you think about like the really big ingredients companies like Cargill or ADM. You know, these are companies that sell huge volumes of their ingredients to other companies that then make branded products with them. So when you go to the supermarket, you're not gonna see a Cargill product on the shelf, but chances are pretty high that many of the products there have Cargill ingredients in them. That's what we intend to do. We wanna sell our mycoprotein to the alternative meat companies so that they can make better alternative meat products that are more natural, more healthy and whole food and that will be even more delicious. If it wasn't more delicious, there'd be no point in doing it, right? People buy food based on taste, as you have pointed out elsewhere. So that's our goal. So the business model is B2B ingredients, just like Cargill, except, you know, we don't have tens of thousands of employees. We have two dozen employees. But the way that we get there is by building a much larger fermentation facility. We've taken a process that we invented in the lab and moved it to a pilot scale, proven that it works here. And now we're ready to go to full scale commercialization. We've already received a number of patents on our processes. So we have good protection on the process. And we have a number of investors who are ready to put in the money that we need, but we're still short on what we fully need in order to actually build a full scale factory. So we have to raise that capital. If somebody listening is interested in owning a piece of the BetterMeatCo, you can contact me through the website, bettermeat.co. Again, bettermeat.co. And the point is that once we get there, we will be selling profitably. There's a lot of companies in this space that just are basically reliant on venture capital money for decades almost. And that's not gonna be our fate. Our goal is to become profitable once we start up our factory and get to a place where we can...quickly start generating enough free cash flow that we can fund future expansions through that rather than having to raise dilutive equity dollars. 


Glen Merzer: Now there's one product that I know of that's a mycoprotein that's been on the market for a long, long time. It's called Quorn. How does your product differ from that? 


Paul Shapiro: Yeah, Quorn is really like the OG of mycoprotein. They control 99 % of the mycoprotein market today. And they're a really cool company. For 25 years, they've been selling a product from fungi fermentation. But what they make, first of all, most of their products aren't vegan. They have egg whites in them. And they also require various processes to get a kind of meat -like texture, including freezing. We don't do any of that. We don't add egg whites. We don't have to freeze the product. We get some of this meat directly from our fermenter. And the reason is because we use a different organism and a different process. And so think about, like if you think about animal protein, there's lots of animal proteins, right? beef, chicken, pork, turkey, fish, et cetera. And they all have different textures, different tastes, different colors, and so on. You think about plant proteins. You got soy protein, pea protein, wheat protein, chickpea protein, fava bean protein, and so on. And all of those plants have different textures, different flavors, different protein contents, and so on. And in the world of mycoproteins, you have thousands of species as well, thousands. Quorn use is just one of them. Imagine if there was like one animal that everybody ate and nobody ate any other animal. right? You just were eating, you know, chickens and there was no such thing as beef or pork or fish or anything. That's kind of what it's like in my protein today. Whereas, you know, 99 % of the market is corn, which is one species. We have pioneered the use of a different species, in fact, different genus altogether. And we view real advantages in our species for a variety of reasons. Happy to get into those advantages if you're interested, but it's kind of technical, but basically it grows faster, has a more meat like texture. And it, also has a centuries long history of safe human consumption and no allergenicity associated with it. 


Glen Merzer: So did you sample a lot of different, did you experiment with a lot of different types of fungi before you settled on that one? 


Paul Shapiro: Hundreds. Yes, hundreds. So, you know, we screened, we had a whole program of screening different strains of fungi for all these characteristics, protein accumulation, rapid growth, meat like texture, and so on. And we like our strain because it not only grows fast and it's highly proteinaceous, but it's been consumed by humans for centuries. You know, Quorn's organism, which again, it's totally safe to consume for nearly everybody, but it's new to humanity. You know, people hadn't eaten it prior to a few decades ago. Whereas the organism that we use is a species of fungi that's been consumed for hundreds of years in Asia. Doesn't have much history in the United States, but it's been consumed for hundreds of years in Asia safely and by tens of millions of people. So, that gives me a little bit greater ease on regulatory approval. It took foreign huge amounts of research to prove that its organism was safe, which they did. But it's a little bit easier for us considering the fact that our organism has this very long history of safety and consumption.


Glen Merzer: And I assume you can patent the process, but you can't patent the actual fungi, right? 


Paul Shapiro: No, you can't. That's not a way that patents work. You shouldn't be able to patent an entire species for any species whatsoever, right? It's not like somebody's going to say, I've patented apples, right? Like, nobody can grow apples. We've patented a process, and the process matters a lot when you're dealing with food technology. It matters a lot for the economics, it matters a lot for the final product texture and other characteristics. So..The way that we make it, I can assure you, is a very unique, special way. 


Glen Merzer: OK. And what kind of reception are you getting from potential clients in the alternative meat space? 


Paul Shapiro: People love it. So we basically sell joint development agreements to companies. So normally, small food tech startups, they're begging the big food players to sort of sample their products. We have a product, though, that is so high in demand and so low in supply that we have the food companies basically pay joint development agreement to get samples from us. So large food companies pay us monthly retainer fees in order to get access to small quantities from our pilot plants so they can work with it so that by the time we have our full scale commercial operation running, that they'll be first in line, ready to commercialize with the ingredient because they'll already be familiar with utilizing it. So that's really how we make money today is through these joint development agreements. And it's another way to really prove the validation of the ingredient and how much people like it that they're willing to pay for it right now. 


Glen Merzer: Wow. Yeah. I never heard about something like that where you're getting income from companies that aren't even really buying your product in any great quantity yet. They're just buying it to work with. 


Paul Shapiro: They're buying access. That's right. They're buying access to the ingredient. So are you able to reveal how many such companies are doing that? The ones who are public with us, yes, we've done these types of joint development agreements with companies like Hormel Foods, Maple Leaf Foods, which is the largest meat producer in Canada. We have similar joint development agreements with companies in Latin America, Asia, Australia and more. 


Glen Merzer: Now, some of these names you you you mentioned are not alternative meat names, they're meat names.


Paul Shapiro: Well, they're both. Yeah. So I could be thinking about Maple Leaf Foods, which again is the largest meat company in Canada, but they also have acquired Light Life Foods. They've acquired Field Roast. So they have their feet in both ponds, right? They're, they're giant in animal protein, but they're also running some of the biggest brands in the plant protein world as well. 


Glen Merzer: Okay. And how often do you, are you able to eat your, your mycoprotein? Do you? keep a supply for yourself for every week or what? 


Paul Shapiro: Because I consider every gram a second, Glen, I don't allow anybody to throw anything out. So actually, just this week is a good example. Somebody found a bag in our storage that didn't have a label on it. It doesn't have a label, so we don't know which lot it came from when it expires. So they want to throw it out. I said, don't throw it out. I'm going to eat it. So I take it home, and I make it myself. And similarly, any time we have excess product, I'm very happy to eat it. So I'd say I consume the product probably five times a week and I'm 100 years old, but I look like I'm only 44. Wow. Yeah, it's amazing. Doing well. Thank you. 


Glen Merzer: How long does this product, how long can it be refrigerated for? 


Paul Shapiro: We actually sell it in a dry shelf stable form. So it has an almost indefinite lifespan. It's more than a year of product stability. So the product then gets hydrated. So imagine, you know, right now people buy like texturized vegetable proteins, they're dry and then they get hydrated and then they're put into a product where same thing with us, we make a dry shelf stable ingredient that can be kept at ambient room temperature and then it gets hydrated when you're ready to use it. 


Glen Merzer: And the companies that are experimenting with creating foods from your ingredients, Are you helping them, for example, to make the kind of steak you have on your website or the foie gras or? 


Paul Shapiro: Yeah, that's part of the job. 


Glen Merzer: Give that information out. 


Paul Shapiro: We don't just give it out. They buy it in the form of their joint development agreement. So if you're let's say you're a food company, you're paying us a monthly retainer fee. You don't just get access to our ingredients. You also get access to our food product developers who share not only our formulas, but also other important information about working with us. You know, most people in the food industry are used to working with animal meats or they're used to working with plant proteins. They're not really used to working with microbial fungi. And so there's a lot of expertise that we have in -house that we offer to these food companies that's useful for them. 


Glen Merzer: All right. Now, what happens if one of these alternative meat companies says to you, OK, we want it. We want to get, you know, a million pounds a month and you can create a million pounds a month. You say, OK. Give us the purchase order and that'll help us get financed or what? 


Paul Shapiro: Yes, absolutely. That's exactly right, Glen. If they're willing to give us that purchase order, that would be enormously helpful for us in order to get the financing needed to build a larger factory. 



Glen Merzer: OK. And do you find that that compared to the plant burgers like the Beyond Burger and so forth, that the finished product will have a smaller list of ingredients. 


Paul Shapiro: Yes. Yes, absolutely. Because this is a whole food, right? Like a plant protein is an isolate that doesn't have the fiber in there and so on. So you end up seeing these companies re -adding fiber isolates back into the formula. And so in this particular case, though, you could have a single ingredient alternative meat. I use the product as a single ingredient. But yes, I definitely am convinced that you can shorten ingredient decks by having a more complex ingredient like this that's not just a protein, but also is mixed with fiber. Mycelium is basically a bundle of protein and fiber. That's really what it is. And that offers a greater complexity to the formula than something that is merely a protein. 



Glen Merzer: All right. Now, this brings me to a final question I want to ask you about the lab meat, which was

largely the subject of your book. And as I confessed earlier, I am a skeptic of lab meat. But when all these various characters from different companies have been trying to create lab meat, they've been using the cells of animals and trying to grow those cells in bioreactors, which they can do, but it's highly energy intensive. And it's a system that could go wrong in so many ways. No contamination could be allowed. And when they get their final product, that lab meat, it's not going to have the fat of meat in it, is it?


Paul Shapiro: You know, it's an interesting question, Glen. So, you know, first, there are companies that are growing animal fats as well. So there are some companies that are growing animal muscle. There's other companies growing animal fat. However, many of the companies that are growing clean meat, the animal cells from muscle are just adding plant based fats to it. And so, yeah, so it's a hybrid product. Right. 


Glen Merzer: So that's my point. At the end of the day, they're just going to be like the Beyond Burger trying to create something that tastes meat like because they're not really growing.A steak. 


Paul Shapiro: We'll see. I mean, the question is how do you get there? Right. How do you get to mimicking the experience of meat? It's very hard to do it like a Beyond Burger as good as it's gotten. Most people eat it can tell the difference between a Beyond Burger and a conventional hamburger. And so the question is, can you get there closer if you're mixing, let's say avocado oil with actual cow cells? I don't know. You know, there's two levels of criticism against this industry. And the first is what you've said, which is basically the technological challenges to actually making this work at any viable scale. That is very possible that it won't work at any viable scale. However, there are a lot of smart people in this field who believe that it will work, that they just have to make new inventions and they'll get there. And that this is more like electric vehicles 15 years ago, which they were like 0 % of the market. And people thought that this was an industry that was never going to take off and it was never going to go anywhere. But now electric vehicles have more of a supply chain, better logistics, and we can make them more inexpensively. And so they're now single digit part of the vehicle market. Single digit percentages of cars sold are electric vehicles. And states like California are saying that by the 2030s, they're not even gonna allow the sale of internal combustion engine cars. So a product that went from 15 years ago being impossible is now perceived as inevitable. And there are lots of things that were perceived as impossible that are still impossible though, like flying cars, right? Like we're not that close to flying cars in the way that we are with electric cars. So is Queen to me more like electric cars 15 years ago or is it more like flying cars? And that is still to be determined. So that's one criticism. The other criticism, which is categorically different is even if it does work, I don't like it, right? To say that you think it's bad for people or bad whatever reason, you're going to say it's energy intensive and so on. And so those are more substantive criticisms that I think that I could part with. I can see the first one. The second one though, it's already less energy intensive than beef production, but it's going to get better. And as we switch to more renewables, that will be less of a problem anyway. They have cost problem, but not an environmental problem. Now, the other factor though to consider is what happens if we don't do this? there's runaway climate changes you have persuasively written about one that's going to render life on earth extremely uncomfortable for a lot of species. And we're going to have a huge amount of wildlife extinction. We already do have a huge amount of wildlife extinction. And the meat industry is the number one driver of extinction, the number one driver of deforestation. And so if we don't have animal cell cultivation, you better really hope. these other things work because, you know, so far plant -based meat has not even come to dominate 1 % of the market. You know, plant -based meat, as good as it is, is still not even 1 % of the total meat market. It's barely a rounding error in the total meat market. And so will that change? Will plant -based meat just keep getting better and better to the point where it's going to become like electric cars and people will perceive it as inevitable? I hope so. That'd be wonderful if plant -based meat and mycoprotein rendered cultivated meat.That would be wonderful. I'm not willing to make that bet though. I think that we need all three of these because I think the problem is so dire. The situation is so extreme with the environmental problems and the severity of animal cruelty in the meat industry that we really need all of these. Now, you know what I'm doing with my life. When it was time to devote my life, I did not go into cultivating meat. I went into mycelium because I thought it was more promising in the near term. 


Glen Merzer: I think you made the right choice. 


Paul Shapiro: Thank you. But, you know, if I were a billionaire and I were looking to spread bets around on things that I thought I would certainly put some into cultivated meat as well. 


Glen Merzer: Well, I've got some plays that I'd like to see on Broadway, too. So,  OK, save a little of the money for that. 


Paul Shapiro: Very nice. Very nice. I'm actually reading Wicked right now. I had no. Did you know that Wicked is like a strong animal rights novel? 


Glen Merzer: I did not know that.


Paul Shapiro:  The reason why The Witch is Wicked. is because she is an animal rights activist who joins an underground animal rights quote unquote terror cell to try to prevent the wizard from killing and incarcerating all of these animals. And like the whole book is about this. It's not like, you know, it's not like, oh, I just see this is the goal book is about her joining an animal rights cell in order to fight back against the wizard who's going to attack animals. So I love the musical. But I'm reading the book and I really highly recommend it. 


Glen Merzer: Does the musical have any of that in it? 


Paul Shapiro: Yes, it does have it. It's not as prominent, but it's in there. It is in there. 


Glen Merzer: Okay. My opinion is that even if the hurdles to creating the lab meat are overcome, I find it hard to believe that it will get acceptance from meat eaters any more readily then the mycoprotein will and maybe the mycoprotein will get acceptance more readily. I was reading that in the Florida legislature. They've apparently been working on a bill to make lab meat illegal. That's how scared they are of it or hostile they are towards it. Do you have any insight into that? 


Paul Shapiro: Yes, it's actually entertaining in the fact that you have one group of people who are saying this is never going to happen. will never be commercialized. And then on the other hand, you have these Florida Republican lawmakers who say, this is such a threat to the meat industry that we need to make it a criminal act to sell it, to sell it. They're not trying to mandate labeling. They're not trying to put warnings. They are trying to make it a crime merely to sell it. 


Glen Merzer: This is the party that believes in a free market, right? 


Paul Shapiro: That's exactly right. Like this is truly like nanny state coming in telling you what you can and cannot eat. In Tennessee, there's a bill that would not only ban the sale of cultivated meat, but it would create a million dollar fine associated with the crime. Now, keep in mind, in Tennessee, armed robbery carries a maximum fine of $50 ,000. So you go and hold somebody up, it's $50 ,000 maximum fine. But if you sell cultivated meat, a million dollars maximum fine. 


Glen Merzer: But if we're getting, I'm not going to justify that bizarre lawmaking. But if we're getting that kind of hostility towards it from presumed meat eaters, what makes us think? 


Paul Shapiro: Yeah, it's not so much meat eaters as much as it's people trying to protect the cattle industry. That's really where it comes from. It's a protectionist measure for a particular incumbent industry. It would be like - 


Glen Merzer: Okay, but you could be sure that that industry will put money into, you know propaganda campaigns against the product. 


Paul Shapiro: They already are. They already are. 


Glen Merzer: Whereas they're not taking on mycoprotein, are they? 


Paul Shapiro: They would, though. I mean, if we were more successful, they would do the same. Like, this is going to be the anything that challenges the status quo and the incumbent industries is always going to provoke a backlash. You can see numerous states right now are trying to ban the use of terms like soy milk or, you know, butter to describe a plant -based spread. and so on, right? And, you know, this is just inherent to what incumbent industries do when they want to try to spelch innovation that could be threatening to their poor business. 


Glen Merzer: Well, all the same, I think you're going to be on firmer ground because you're making a product from mushrooms. You're not claiming that this is, and it's not, that this is animal cells and it's the same thing. You know, it's not, nobody could say, oh, it's a Frankenstein kind of product. It's, it's mushrooms. 


Paul Shapiro: People will make whatever claims they're going to make that they think are effective at protecting their bottom line. At the same time, the polls show like it, there have been a number of polls asking meat eaters whether they would eat cultivated meat. And the most pessimistic polls showed 25 % say yes. The most optimistic polls say about 78% say yes. So let's just stick with the most pessimistic ones. Even if 25 % of meat eaters switched, it would have a catastrophic effect on the meat industry. These guys are worried about a 1 % decline in meat demand. If you saw actual displacement of 25 % of meat, think about the unbelievable cascading effects that would have if 25 % fewer cow specs and chickens were being raised. I mean, that would have...an extraordinary effect would be similar to what happened to the buggy whip manufacturers, right? When cars came out, because you just didn't need as many whips to whip all these horses. So even under the most pessimistic scenarios of what people self -identify as what they're willing to do, willing to eat, I still would be optimistic about it. I'm far more concerned about how long it's going to be before that becomes an option for them than I am about whether they'll buy it or not. 


Glen Merzer: Okay. Well, I, for one, I'm more sanguine about the mycoprotein, the fungi. That's real. You just need a customer to put in that big purchase order. Yes. And then you can you can scale up off that purchase order and then it's real and then it happens. So if anyone is listening out there and how can they contact you?



Paul Shapiro: Thanks, Glen. You're going to visit bettermeat .co. Again, that's bettermeat .co and get in touch with me through that website. And if you're interested in my book, Clean Meat, just go to the website cleanmeat.com. Again, that's cleanmeat .com and you can get in touch with me through there, too. 


Glen Merzer: Very good, Paul. It's been a pleasure talking with you. I will say we started this one with one of my favorite jokes and I'm going to end it with one of my favorite jokes, too. So I don't know if you heard about 90 year old Saul Manklowitz. He was on his deathbed and his family was gathering around watching him take what appeared to be his final breath. His breathing is getting slower and slower, but all of a sudden in wafts into the room, a scent and he goes, ah, my wife Ruth's famous apple cake. And he motions to his grandson. He goes, please go fetch me one piece of my wife's famous apple cake. So eating it can be my last experience on this planet. As grandson sprints downstairs trying to beat the clock, he comes back a couple minutes later empty handed and says, Oh, where is the apple cake? And his grandson says, Grandma says she's saving it for the Shiva.


Glen Merzer:  All right. Well, on that note, that was a pretty good one on that note. Paul, thank you so much. I I am hoping to find your your.better meat in my grocery store as soon as possible. 


Paul Shapiro: Let's do it. Thanks, Glen. Great to talk with you. 


Glen Merzer: Take care.




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