The woman trying to dismantle factory farms with faux-meat

Holstein cow, 5 years old, standing in front of white background

I admit, I’m still on the fence when it comes to lab-grown animal products, like the infamous $325,000 hamburger. Having eaten meat for many years of my life, I think the taste and texture of something like that would be a little…disturbing. Creepy. Nauseating.

That said, I’m a pragmatist. I understand that for many carnivores, artificial meat is perhaps the best way to provide the taste and mouthfeel people crave, while bypassing the death, cruelty, and waste of livestock farming and slaughter.

Which is why this woman sounds like someone I’d like to take out for drinks.

“The great thing about animal agriculture,” says Isha Datar from her office in New York City, “is that it is offensive in so many different ways.”

Datar, of course, is being facetious. But with her company, New Harvest, a nonprofit focused on funding research for lab-grown animal products, Datar hopes to turn growing dissatisfaction with farming practices into a wave of funding for animal products—minus the animals.

“A lot of nonprofits are built around a problem,” says Datar, who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biochemistry and biotechnology. “We’re built around a solution, and all the problems that it solves are diverse and many.”

Since taking over as CEO of the 12-year-old organization in 2013, Datar has helped kickstart a small line of research endeavors and companies, including Muufri, a San Francisco-based startup currently developing cowless milk using yeast cultures (“I got to taste one of the early prototypes, and it tasted just like skim milk,” says Datar), and Clara Foods, which specializes in egg whites that come before the chicken. New Harvest is also invested in lab-grown meats and helped provide a part of the funding used to create scientist Mark Post’s $325,000 lab-grown burger, which garnered significant press attention for its astronomical price tag. (The price of the patty has since dropped to about $11/burger).

There’s much more at the link. Very interesting, the way that money seems to follow her. I sincerely hope she’s on to something.

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