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Aug 29, 2022

Karthik Sekar, Ph.D, says, “I've seen some profoundly twisted takes on alternative foods and how "processed" they are. In this article, I clarify some confusion, explain the chemistry and biology behind food digestion, and argue why "processed" is a meaningless food descriptor. 

If we genuinely want tasty, affordable, healthy, kinder, and more sustainable food, we should use the better metrics and concepts already out there.”


Original Post: 

Related Episodes:

171: Technical Outrage: Innovating to Reduce Animal Use 

170 Fermentation for Alternative Protein Production 

327: Shifting to a Better World


Karthik’s Interviews on other Podcasts:

Vegan Family Kitchen

Hope for the Animals


Karthik Sekar, Ph.D is the author of After Meat: The Case for an Amazing Meat-Free World.

He is a trained scientist and engineer. He finished his B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of North Carolina, his PhD in Chemical Engineering from Northwestern University, and a postdoctoral position in Systems Biology at ETH Zurich. He currently works on the front lines of the alternative food industry in the San Francisco Bay Area. Please visit to learn more.

“The movement away from animal-based foods is already proceeding with tremendous momentum,” says Karthik Sekar, Ph.D. and author of AFTER MEAT (November 16, 2021). According to Dr. Sekar, Burger King and McDonalds have both introduced veggie burgers sourced from well-known, next-generation vegan food companies, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, and the publication, The Economist, declared 2019 to be the “Year of the Vegan”.  

AFTER MEAT explores the technological reasons for moving away from animal products. “Animals are awful technology,” says Dr. Sekar, who supports his opinion by examining how inefficient it is to use cows, for example, to produce steaks, leather, and milk. According to Dr. Sekar, it takes more than a year to grow food to feed animals, and we “waste” more than ninety percent of what we feed the animal to reach the desired result, due to the fundamental physics of cow biology. These are irretrievably terrible metrics. We can do much better with alternative technology such as microbial fermentation, which will also be easier to innovate for taste, nutrition, and other qualities we care about. And all indications are that the future of food will ultimately be tastier, healthier, cheaper, kinder, and better for the environment. This will happen because we won’t use animal products. 

100% of the proceeds of AFTER MEAT will be donated to the following charities: The Good Food Institute; Animal Charity Evaluator’s Recommended Charity Fund; Effective Altruism’s Animal Welfare Fund; and Faunalytics.


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