Meat doesn't have to come from an animal to be nutritious.
That's the idea behind Beyond Meat, a startup that aims to manufacture fake meat using a patented technology and plant products.
Founder Ethan Brown grew up in Washington, D.C., with a professor father who had a real passion for agriculture.
On the weekends and over the summer, he and his family would travel to a hobby farm they owned in rural Maryland. The farm eventually grew into a full-fledged dairy operation.
"I spent enough time there to get the notion that there must be a better way to do this," Brown told Business Insider. "Meat is well understood in terms of its core parts, as well as its architecture. Meat is basically five things: amino acids, lipids, and water, plus some trace minerals and trace carbohydrates. These are all things that are abundant in non-animal sources and in plants."
"The challenge is to take those core parts from plants and assemble them in the architecture of meat."
But why avoid meat in the first place?
"Raising livestock is an incredibly inefficient way of producing protein. It takes a lot of land, a lot of energy, and a lot of water just to generate one pound of meat from an animal. About 30% of the animal is meat we eat; the rest is not useful," Brown said. "By manufacturing meat, we can simultaneously solve four problems."
He calls those problems "the four horsemen" — climate change, animal welfare, natural resources, and human health. Brown himself became a vegetarian when he was 18.