Would you like to save the world? Do you live in one of the wealthier countries on Earth? Then Bill Gates has a proposal for you to consider. He would like everyone in the wealthier nations to start eating 100% plant-based, artificial meat. What’s the matter? You don’t want to be a hero? If you feel your stomach starting to tie into knots right about now, don’t worry. Bill says that you’ll get used to the taste and someday the lab-grown stuff might actually start tasting like actual meat. Get your knives and forks ready, folks. Beef: It’s not what’s for dinner anymore. (CNN)

Bill Gates believes the wealthiest countries should switch to eating “100% synthetic beef” in order to help combat climate change.

The second-richest man in the world floated his ideas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a new interview with MIT’s Technology Review.

“I do think all rich countries should move to 100% synthetic beef,” Gates said when asked how to cut back on methane emissions. “You can get used to the taste difference, and the claim is they’re going to make it taste even better over time. Eventually, that green premium is modest enough that you can sort of change the [behavior of] people or use regulation to totally shift the demand.”

Rather than inviting Mr. Gates to simply go perform an anatomically unlikely sexual act upon himself right off the bat, we should at least take a look at not only what he’s proposing, but some possible motivations for his request. The first part is fairly easy. We’ve written about fake meat here on any number of occasions. The laboratory process required to torture a bunch of plant compounds into something that looks (and vaguely tastes) like meat is something of a Frankenstein story. But if you’re trying to save the world, I suppose it’s a small price to pay, right?

There might be more to this tale than first meets the eye, however. The first thing to know is that Mr. Gates has a new book out this week that he’s trying to promote. It’s called “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster” and I’m confident you can guess the subject under discussion just from the title. Gates would like his book to sell well, so tossing out this sort of rhetoric probably can’t hurt. This isn’t to say that he really needs the money from book sales, but the guy also clearly doesn’t want his effort to be a flop.

Also, Bill Gates isn’t just a notable promoter of artificial meat technology. He’s also a significant investor in companies working on the technology behind the process. Again, he probably has enough cash at this point that his investments don’t have to all be huge winners, so maybe he invested as a charitable act? I suppose it’s possible, but much like the book sales angle, nobody wants to be known for sinking their money into a bum steer. (Pun intended)

Gates’ main angle in this specific part of the climate debate seems to be that we can eliminate most of the automobile emissions by going to electric cars, but nobody has any plans to breed electric cattle at the moment. With that in mind, we need to reduce the number of cows on the planet severely. And the best way to do that is by putting all of the ranchers in the world out of business by eliminating the demand for beef. My question in response is, why are you writing off electric cows so quickly? With the kind of money Bill Gates has, surely somebody could come up with a prototype.

In any event, I’ll just wish Mr. Gates the best and go back to grilling my steaks and burgers. I really don’t want to be part of this worrisome trend. If everyone is suddenly eating artificial meat made from plants, before you know it some crackpot will suggest we start eating laboratory meat grown from the flesh of people. Oh, wait… that already happened.