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Transforming Our Food System: An Interview With Bruce Friedrich of The Good Food Institute

Written by Zoe Weil | Published on April 25, 2016 | Filed under Humane Connection
The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Humane Education website at http://humaneeducation.org/blog/2016/04/25/transforming-food-system-interview-bruce-friedrich-good-food-institute/
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Bruce Friedrich

by Zoe Weil

One of the core principles of humane education is focusing on transforming our systems so that they’re more restorative, just, and humane for all.

Our food system has far-reaching effects on people, animals, and the earth, so we need new initiatives that reenvision how and what we produce to eat.

Bruce Friedrich is the executive director of the The Good Food Institute (GFI), a new organization dedicated to “creating a healthy, humane, and sustainable food supply.”

Bruce holds degrees from the Georgetown University Law Center, Grinnell College, Johns Hopkins University, and the London School of Economics. He has held leadership roles for the past two decades at top nonprofit organizations working on animal agriculture issues.

In addition to his work for GFI, Bruce is a managing trustee of New Crop Capital, a venture capital fund that invests in plant and culture-based alternatives to animal agriculture, as well as tech platforms that advance plant-based eating.

Bruce also taught for two years in inner city Baltimore through Teach for America, and was Teacher of the Year for his school his second year.

I spoke with Bruce about the GFI and our changing food system.

ZW: Why did you start the Good Food Institute?

BF: GFI is focused on disrupting animal agriculture by promoting the commercial success of plant-based and cultured alternatives. People make their food choices based on convenience, taste, and price, so that’s where we’re focusing—on making the alternatives to animal products more convenient, tasty, and price-competitive.

ZW: What are your strategies for creating change in our food system?

BF: We’re doing a host of things that we think will help, but four big ones are:

  1. working with start-ups to create and ensure the success of more and more plant and culture-based companies;
  2. working with companies on maximum distribution;
  3. working in universities to influence more people (food scientists, synthetic biologists, entrepreneurs) to move into this space;
  4. working at a high level to promote the space by encouraging industry and governments to get involved in funding it, as a part of their efforts on behalf of sustainability and against climate change.

ZW: What are the biggest challenges and obstacles?

BF: So far, we have been blessed by nothing but openings, no obstacles. The challenges are not really challenges in the conventional sense, either. The only two big challenges at this point are: 1) Finding enough hours in the day. Our list of projects is about 20 miles long, and there is just not enough time to get to them all. We need to hire staff, so that we can divide and conquer. And 2) raising money. We want to raise about $1.6 million to be fully operational, and that’s going to take some time.

ZW: Imagining a future in which animals are no longer exploited and abused for food, what do you think the history books will say about the strategies that had the greatest impact in causing such a shift?

BF: I think the history books will discuss a confluence of factors, including the bending toward justice that is the inexorable path of history, as Dr. King rightly noted from a faith vantage, and as Steven Pinker explained in great detail in The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (a book which I highly recommend to anyone who is ever feeling discouraged in their work to make the world a kinder place—hold on and keep fighting; we’re going to get there!). Anyway, I think the history books will note the vast numbers of people and activities that inevitably brought us to animal liberation.

ZW: How does humane education fit into your strategy?

BF: Humane education makes an invaluable contribution to creating the world we’re all working toward: a world where no one is hungry, homeless, or without health care—anywhere in the world; a world where conflict is resolved nonviolently; a world where all animals are treated with the same respect most of us confer on our dogs and cats.