The Margin: Bill Gates roasted for saying rich countries should eat ‘100% synthetic beef’

United States

Some people on Twitter have beef with Bill Gates again.

The Microsoft MSFT, -1.16% founder-turned-global health philanthropist discusses ways to tackle climate change in his new book, “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need,” which hit shelves on Tuesday. And among his calls to action: switching to synthetic beef to reduce methane emissions, aka the gases that cattle and sheep release when they belch or pass gas.

While Burger King QSR, +0.69% has experimented with adding lemongrass to the diet of some of its beef herd to limit the methane emissions that contribute to climate change, and researchers are feeding seaweed to cattle in Maine and New Hampshire in another attempt to cut down the methane these herds release, it’s simply a biologic fact of life that the bacteria in the digestive tracts of livestock releases methane as it breaks down food. “I don’t know if there’ll be some natural approach there,” Gates said.

His solution: the richest countries should hold the beef, period, and switch to plant-based or synthetic proteins.

“I do think all rich countries should move to 100% synthetic beef,” Gates told Technology Review. “You can get used to the taste difference, and the claim is they’re going to make it taste even better over time. Eventually, that green premium is modest enough that you can sort of change the [behavior of] people or use regulation to totally shift the demand.”

Many readers on Twitter aren’t ready to completely give up their burgers and steaks just yet. So this led to Gates’ trending on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon as critics chewed him out.

Even Gates recognized that this idea is hard to swallow. “Saying to people, ‘You can’t have cows anymore’ — talk about a politically unpopular approach to things,” he also told Technology Review.

Some other critics also questioned why Gates should dictate what countries should do to address climate change when a new report in the Nation named Gates as one of the world’s top carbon emitters. It notes he lives in a 66,000-square-foot mansion outside of Seattle, and his private jet consumes 486 gallons of fuel each hour it flies.

Indeed, Gates himself admits in his book that he is “an imperfect messenger on climate change.” 

Read more: Can Bill Gates — ‘another rich guy with an opinion’ — move the needle on climate change?

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It’s certainly not Gates’s first time getting roasted on social media, however, as he has found himself at the center of several debunked conspiracy theories during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the backlash against his synthetic-meat plan, however, the global hunger for plant-based foods continues to grow. Morningstar forecasts that the plant-based-meat market will reach $ 74 billion by 2029, up from $ 12 billion in 2019. And Beyond Meat BYND, -4.11% is working with McDonald’s MCD, -1.48% and Yum Brands YUM, -0.23% fast-food chains Taco Bell and KFC to roll out plant-based sandwiches and other alternative meat items this year.