Food For Thought Thursday: WeWork is Off Brand

On July 13th, CNN reported WeWork's decision to move away from meat. It’s not banned from their premises outright but it’s being eliminated from office menus, you won’t be able to buy anything meat from self-serve kiosks at their locations, and employees can no longer expense, or have catered meat meals. For those on the fringes or outside of the meat conversation within the context of personal or planetary health, this might sound beyond extreme, possibly even cult-like. Fine, I’ll just order in from [insert burger joint] and get it delivered. Uh huh, enjoy your side of side-eye with that. Okay, maybe the weworkers aren’t going to pass judgement on your adherence to carnivorism; it’s just that this latest decision seems to do just that. Consider the reasoning:

“New research indicates that avoiding meat is one of the biggest things an individual can do to reduce their personal environmental impact,” Miguel McKelvey, WeWork’s co-founder said in a company-wide memo obtained by Bloomberg, “even more than switching to a hybrid car.”
— Caitlin Petreycik, Food and Wine 7/16/18

 Clearly the move is about reducing the company's environmental impact. Admirable. We've written about opportunity-food loss before (in a nutshell, the notion that land that is used to feed cattle could be [much] more efficiently used to produce crops for human consumption.

Scientists compared the resources needed to produce five major categories of animal-based food — beef, pork, dairy, poultry and eggs — with the resources required to grow edible crops of similar nutritional value in terms of protein, calorie and micronutrients. They found that plant-based replacements could produce two- to 20-fold more protein per acre.
— Science Daily 3/26/18

So, we could produce more edible plant-based food and fight hunger. Then, there are the cow farts. It turns out that methane (livestock emissions) is a contributor to global warming, and a bigger one than we’d all thought. All because of our [seemingly increasing] demand for meat.

Here’s the thing, the forced acceptance of veganism seems to go against our human sensibilities. Yes, a plant-based diet has been shown to be a healthier option, for us and the for the planet. But we humans love choice. WeWork has become successful because they’ve embraced an evolved mentality around work life. They’ve been champions of the up and comers and anti-status quo. A meat ban based on environmental impact indicates great intention, but misses a huge opportunity. As a north star for startups, WeWork could embrace those in the burgeoning cultured or clean meat field. Yes, it’s meat grown in a lab. Yes, it’s real meat. No, it doesn’t come with the deleterious environmental effects of livestock farmed meat. WeWork could serve as an incubator for the continued development of this livestock alternative that could allow meat to be a dining option while limiting damage to our planet. Instead of wagging a finger at the meat-eaters, they could be a big part of the flexitarian conversation, bringing both plant based-proteins and cultured meat options into the foreground and enabling those who seek to produce healthier alternatives—burger lovers and all.