Venture Capital, Techno-Fixes, and the Crisis of Animal Agriculture

Authors: Russell Hedberg*, Shippensburg University
Topics: Food Systems, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: Food Systems, Sustainability, Technology, Venture Capital
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 38
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In the last decade animal agriculture has received significant scrutiny for its many negative consequences, including nutrient pollution, resource use intensity, greenhouse gas emissions, and animal cruelty, among others. In response to these myriad concerns a wide range of voices have advocated for diets that include less meat, often arguing that meat-based diets are inherently more resource intensive than those based on plants. While academics have begun to scrutinize this assumption, it has received little attention in popular discourse, giving rise to a narrative that places blame on livestock and meat consumption rather than the system that produces it for profit. Amid this lack of criticism, a slew of venture capital-backed agri-technology startups have launched to produce meat alternatives that can satisfy consumer demand for meat while also solving one of the fundamental environmental challenges of modern agriculture. In this paper I draw on frameworks from political ecology, political economy, and agroecology in the pursuit of two goals: (1) to give strict scrutiny to the environmental claims made by VC back meat alternatives, and (2) to examine the extent to which these ventures have shaped popular narratives in sustainable agriculture in favor of capitalist/industrial food systems and away from ecologically based and socially just food futures in which livestock will likely play an important role.

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