Rather than using rennet from a calf’s stomach, nearly all cheese today is made using synthetic biology. Such a biotech fermentation product can compete on cost only because the veal industry was decimated.

By Paul Shapiro

Often when alt-protein advocates make the case that biotech food startups can succeed with products like Perfect Day’s non-animal whey and Clara Foods’ non-animal egg proteins, the widespread displacement of rennet in cheese is Exhibit A. For millennia, calf-based rennet was used to make cheese, and now nearly all cheese contains a synthetic biology-produced (synbio) version instead. If calf rennet’s dominance in cheese-making could so quickly be supplanted by synbio fermentation, could the same happen for other animal-based ingredients?

It turns out that the story of rennet’s displacement is even more interesting than it appears. I was…

Workers rip feathers out of live geese in an 1872 painting. The invention of metal pens displaced demand for quill pens.

By Paul Shapiro

If you were to argue a case before the Supreme Court today, you’d notice something a bit unusual. At your desk, the highest court in the land would have laid out before you pens should you need to write something during the proceedings. What’s unusual about these writing utensils isn’t just, however, that they’re a throwback to a pre-digital era. What’s unusual is that these pens are a throwback to a time when “pen” was largely synonymous with a bird’s feather.

Since its inception in the 18th century until today, the Supreme Court has always given quill…

ASPCA founder Henry Bergh would regularly stop overloaded trolleys to provide relief to suffering horses.

By Paul Shapiro

In his riveting new book about the founder of America’s first animal welfare organization, historian Ernest Freeberg does a magnificent job detailing the problems animals faced in 19th- century America and the campaigns of those who crusaded on their behalf. Favorably reviewed already in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, A Traitor to His Species: Henry Bergh and the Birth of the Animal Rights Movement is a must-read for anyone interested in the roots of the modern animal advocacy movement.

In this biography, Freeberg doesn’t sugarcoat either the cruelty that ASPCA founder Henry Bergh fought…

For decades, children sent tens of millions of fireflies to Sigma Chemical Co. in exchange for swag and cash.

By Paul Shapiro

Supply chains for any product can be messy, but it’s hard to imagine one messier than how diabetics before the ’90s got their insulin. Pharma giant Eli Lilly alone used to purchase 53 million pig and cattle pancreases each year just to extract the insulin that was sold to the diabetic market.

As I wrote for Food Dive, that gruesome practice ended when a then-startup called Genentech pioneered a method of genetically engineering bacteria that produce actual human insulin. Almost overnight, diabetics had a much safer and cleaner way to keep their bodies humming. …

Paul Shapiro with Norm Phelps

The below is a reprint of an obituary published on January 2, 2015 by Paul Shapiro, a long-time friend and coworker of author and animal advocate Norm Phelps’.

Norm Phelps: 1939–2014

It’s with a heavy heart that I report that one of the best friends animals have had, Norm Phelps, has passed away at the age of 75. He died in Meritus Health Hospital in Hagerstown, Md. on December 31, 2014. Norm is survived by his loving, devoted wife and fellow animal advocate Patti Rogers, along with their beloved cats.

Many in the animal protection movement knew Norm as a…

BlueNalu’s yellowtail is delicious, but is it cell-based, cultivated, clean, cultured, or something else?

By Paul Shapiro

Cultured meat, clean meat, cultivated meat, cell-based meat, craft meat — lovers of linguistic diversity have every reason to rejoice when they come upon the topic of real meat grown from animal cells.

While opponents of the food tend to use pejorative or science-y names like “lab-grown meat” and “in vitro meat,” advocates have typically adopted names that sound more natural and therefore appetizing, whether cultivated meat, clean meat, or even craft meat. …

It’s true that the percentage gains during the pandemic for plant-based meat have been higher than for animal-based meat. But animal-based meat is such a bigger market that the increase in demand for it dwarfs the increase in demand for plant-based meat.

By Paul Shapiro

No doubt about it: makers of plant-based meat are experiencing blockbuster growth during the pandemic for a variety of reasons. From widespread slaughter plant shutdowns restricting supply and increasing prices to concerns about the treatment of those employed in those plants to attention on the connection between pandemics and how we treat animals, many Americans are exploring the plant-based world in earnest.

That’s why news outlets like Forbes are correctly touting: “Alternative Meat Sales Soar Amid Pandemic.” After all, the percentage gains for plant-based meats are even greater than for animal-based meat.

Plant-Based Meat Sales are Beefed-Up…

Stroll through your local supermarket and it won’t be hard to see why some in the dairy industry are, well, having a cow. Milks and cheeses from soy, almonds, coconuts, cashews and even flaxseeds are decidedly in. Cow’s milk isn’t in danger of being put out to pasture, but consumption in the United States has been in a steady slide since the 1970s and the dairy aisle is getting crowded.

With interest in drinking cows’ milk waning, especially in Western Europe and the United States, and the popularity of plant-based milk rising, the Netherlands-based Rabobank in May advised dairy producers…

Paul Shapiro and Toni Okamoto Shapiro drive Eddie the foster dog home.

By Kenya Evelyn for The Guardian [see link to original story at bottom]

Paul Shapiro and his wife, Toni Okamoto, weren’t planning to become pet owners. But as the coronavirus continued to spread throughout California, the businessman and author knew they had to act to support a local shelter in Sacramento forced to close because of quarantine orders.

“They needed immediate fosters to come down that day, so since my wife worked from home she just got in the car and drove there immediately,” he said. “You pulled up and they put a dog in your car. …

Names matter. Above are two real news headlines reporting on surveys that used different terms to describe meat grown from animal cells.

By Paul Shapiro

Would a rose by any other name smell just as sweet? Apparently so for Juliet when she gazed upon Romeo, but the same can’t be said of the modern consumer, where marketing is critical and names are meaningful.

Think for example about how the Affordable Care Act is more popular than Obamacare, despite being different names for the same law. Or how calling the estate tax on multimillionaires a “death tax” helped turn Americans against the policy. Or how labeling a food “vegan” vs. “plant-based” substantially impacts its popularity.

Turns out the same is true when it…

Paul Shapiro

Husband of Toni Okamoto. Author of nat’l bestseller Clean Meat. CEO of The Better Meat Co. Host of Business for Good Podcast. 4x TEDx speaker. Paul-Shapiro.com

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