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The Good Food Institute works with governments, corporations, and scientists around the world to accelerate the development of plant-based and cultivated meat products that can replace industrial animal meat by meeting consumer expectations and avoiding the adverse impacts of intensive animal farming.
What problem are they trying to solve?
More than 75 billion farmed land animals are slaughtered every year.1 Inadequate welfare requirements and legal protections mean that the majority of these animals suffer greatly, living their entire lives in crowded, uncomfortable, unhealthy conditions.2 But most consumers do not incorporate external costs into their purchasing decisions. GFI seeks to solve these problems by supporting the development of cost-competitive meat products that satisfy consumer demands produced from plants or cultivated directly from cells.
What do they do?
The Good Food Institute works to advance alternative proteins through three main channels. First, they support open-access research into alternative proteins by publishing papers3 and making grants to scientists.4 Second, they lobby governments to increase research and development funding for alternative proteins. Third, they work with large food companies to increase the availability of alternative proteins.
Within each of these three channels, GFI carries out a range of activities. More information can be found in GFI’s Strategic Plan here. GFI has highlighted to us their work supporting alternative proteins internationally and convening events that bring together stakeholders from across the industry. They have international affiliates in five regions outside the US: Asia Pacific, Brazil, Europe, India, and Israel. These affiliates develop regional programs that advance alternative proteins within these markets. They also seek to mobilize more public and private funding for research that advances alternative proteins globally. Finally, GFI’s work to connect and coordinate actors within the alternative proteins ecosystem is notable. For example, the organisation hosts the Good Food Conference, a large, annual conference that convenes scientists, entrepreneurs, investors, policymakers, and business leaders.
Why do we recommend them?
- Our advisory committee of staff and some members from Farmed Animal Funders recommends The Good Food Institute as one of the most cost-effective animal advocacy organisations in the world
- GFI is the leading policy, research, and advocacy organisation in the alternative protein space
- By accelerating the development of plant-based and cultivated meat products, GFI could have a big impact on animal welfare by addressing the root causes of intensive animal farming
GFI is a highly-aligned organisation with a strong commitment to impact. They also receive funding from the Open Philanthropy Project, which noted that GFI is “the leading nonprofit promoting alternatives to industrial farmed animal products” and has “achieved growing influence as a think tank and resource provider”.5 (Disclaimer: Founders Pledge also receives funding from Open Philanthropy.)
GFI differs from our other recommendations in animal welfare as they seek to make intensive animal farming obsolete by changing the way meat is made. Rather than trying to change consumers’ demand for meat, GFI seeks to supply plant-based or cultivated meat alternatives that taste the same or better or cost the same or less. Such an approach seems compelling. Whether or not it is the most effective way to alleviate the suffering of factory farmed animals depends on a number of uncertain factors, including the feasibility of developing low-cost alternative proteins, consumer demand for such products, and future trends in meat consumption.6 Given how uncertain we are about many of these factors, it is reasonable to expect expert disagreement about plausible timelines on which various alternative protein products could be developed.7
Because industrial animal agriculture also causes harms related to the environment and global health, GFI believes that alternative proteins will also have environmental, health, and economic benefits.8 Alternative proteins would plausibly produce fewer greenhouse gases than animal proteins and reduce the risk of pandemics caused by germs that spread from animal to humans. However, we have not closely investigated these potential effects, and our recommendation is based primarily on GFI’s potential to improve animal welfare.
Why do we trust this organization?
This recommendation is made on the advice of our advisory committee of staff and a few members from Farmed Animal Funders. FAF is a donor learning community and philanthropic advisory organisation specifically focused on bringing an end to intensive animal farming. Animal welfare interventions are generally less well-studied and more difficult to evaluate than interventions in other cause areas. Many of the best opportunities are also likely to be country-specific. FAF’s team is dedicated to finding these opportunities, and maximizing impact is a core organisational value. The members of our advisory committee are highly value-aligned with Founder's Pledge, and we are fortunate to be able to rely on their expertise in this space.
What would they do with more funding?
The Good Food Institute has indicated to us that they plan to focus on four main projects over the next three years. These could change as GFI learns more about the effectiveness of its work.
GFI plans to:
- Increase their expenditures on lobbying governments to increase their support for alternative proteins. GFI sees this as a promising avenue to impact because governments have very large R&D budgets. Governments may also be better placed to invest in research which has positive externalities.
- Increase their direct support for alternative protein research through their funding and training programs.
- Work with large food companies to expand alternative protein offerings and make these products more accessible
- Strengthen the alternative proteins research and market sectors by publishing economic and technical analyses, participating in and hosting seminars and workshops, and reaching out to policy, corporate, and scientific influencers through targeted media
We expect marginal donations from Founders Pledge members would allow GFI to hire more staff and expand their work on some or all of the above priorities. At this time, we are somewhat unsure about how much additional funding GFI could use productively. Our understanding is that GFI is in a relatively strong financial position and that funding constraints have not caused them to shelve any projects they would have liked to carry out. GFI’s annual budget is $16 million, including $5 million allocated for research grants, focused on open-access research into alternative proteins. As of November 2020, they have a funding gap of $2.9 million remaining for 2020. If they are unable to close this gap, GFI expects that their international expansion, government lobbying, and research grants programs will be most affected.
What are the major open questions?
- The timeline on which various alternative proteins can be developed, commercialized, and made widely available is highly uncertain
- If GFI did not exist, how much of the research and advocacy it funds would instead be funded by for-profit alternative protein companies?
- Having consistently increased their budget year-over-year, GFI seems less funding constrained than some of our other recommendations. We are unsure about how likely it is that GFI’s funding gap is filled by other donors
Message from the organization
“The only way to significantly decrease industrial animal agriculture globally is to create alternatives that taste the same or better and cost the same or less. This solution is global: cost-effective production methods developed in Brazil, India, Israel, the United States, Asia-Pacific, or Europe will be used worldwide. Through the work of GFI’s scientists, policy experts and lobbyists, and corporate specialists all over the world, we are mobilizing the global research community to take the animal out of meat production. For someone who recognizes the myriad harms of the way meat is produced today, we believe there’s no better philanthropic opportunity than GFI. We would love to discuss our full vision and plans with you”
-Bruce Friedrich, Founder and Executive Director
- GFI’s strategic plan
- GFI’s 2019 Year in Review
- GFI’s September 2020 Progress Update
- Bruce Friedrich's TED Talk: The New Agricultural Revolution
- TED Radio Hour: "How is Eating Meat Affecting Our Planet"
Disclaimer: We do not have a reciprocal relationship with any recommended organisation, and recommendations are subject to change based on our ongoing research.
For more information, please refer to our full Cause Summary on animal welfare. ↩
“The Good Food Institute — General Support (2017),” Open Philanthropy, November 2017, https://www.openphilanthropy.org/focus/us-policy/farm-animal-welfare/good-food-institute-general-support-2017 ↩
For more discussion on this point, please see our full write-up on animal welfare. ↩
“Based on cost analyses, comparisons with tissue engineering and biofuels, and discussion with scientists who have experience with cell cultures and tissue engineering, we currently see developing cost-competitive cultured muscle tissue products as extremely challenging, and we have been unable to find any concrete paths forward that seem likely to achieve that goal. We have not closely investigated the challenges associated with creating plant-based alternatives to animal products” (“Animal Product Alternatives”, Open Philanthropy, n.d., https://www.openphilanthropy.org/research/cause-reports/animal-product-alternatives) href="#fnref7" rev="footnote">↩