The Edge Episode 8: Control-Alt-Meat

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After an unsettling encounter with a turkey, Laura resolves to eat less meat and takes Leah on a journey through the alternative meat industry. Will real, flesh and blood meat be obsolete in 15 years, as one industry leader suggests? Laura and Leah discuss with the director of UC Berkeley’s Alt: Meat Lab, Dr. Ricardo San Martin, and a former student who is developing a faux-chicken drumstick. (The question on everyone’s mind is: if it’s vegan, what’s the drumstick bone?) Also on the docket: how to turn plants into burgers, why many meat alternatives on the market aren’t good for you, the cultural and moral implications of meat-eating, and what the food of the future might look like.

Show Notes:

  • An article about the meat industry impending obsolescence
  • UC Berkeley’s Alt: Meat Lab homepage
  • Prime Roots’ homepage
  • Sundial Foods’ homepage
  • The Guardian’s 1,000 year history of meat-alternatives
  • A Healthline article comparing the health of the Whopper to the Impossible Burger

This episode was written and hosted by Laura Smith and Leah Worthington and produced by Coby McDonald.

Special thanks to Pat Joseph, Ricardo San Martin, Jessica Schwabach, Siwen Deng, Brooke Kottmann, and California magazine intern Maddy Weinberg. Art by Michiko Toki and original music by Mogli Maureal.

The Transcript:

LEAH WORTHINGTON: Hi, Laura. Happy New Year.

LAURA SMITH: Hi, Leah, Happy New Year.

LEAH: Thank you. So the most important question of the New Year: Do you have any resolutions?

LAURA: Yes, I actually do. And of course, it relates to our episode today.

LEAH: Well, isn’t that convenient. So what is it?

LAURA: I think I told you about my Thanksgiving experience. But basically, I bought a turkey from the farmers’ market for Thanksgiving and decided I was gonna do it all myself. And it was my first time making a turkey, and it was really hard for me. Like dealing with a body of a turkey, I really felt like I was dealing with a corpse, and I had to stick my hand in various cavities. And at one point, I was defrosting it in my bathtub, and it just felt like it was a part of, like, the black market organ trade. And I didn’t feel great about it. I’ve never been super comfortable with the animal slaughter process, and this was just one step closer to that process. I mean, I didn’t kill the turkey myself, but it was the next step in that. And I, at one point I was like plucking feathers off the turkey, because there were still some feathers on it, with my tweezers. And I just didn’t like it. It just brought up a lot of issues surrounding meat eating for me.

LAURA: So to bring it back to your original question, I think I’m going to make a New Year’s resolution to either eat less meat, or maybe stop eating meat altogether. I don’t know. I’m not very resolute about it.

LEAH: Yeah, I mean, animal suffering aside, not that animal suffering is an aside, but we’re gonna put it aside for a moment… There’s all these other issues with meat and the environment, right? Like, we’ve heard about how the way that we farm animals, the amount of animals that we consume, are really contributing to global warming. And I mean, take cow farts, like cow farts are a big producer of methane. And I believe that animal agriculture is responsible for some like 18% of greenhouse gases. And whether we like it or not, we know that if we ate less meat or no meat, things would be a lot better for the environment, like drastically better. Not to mention the health benefits as well.

LAURA: Right. So for this episode, we’re going to talk to some people who are at the forefront of the alt meat industry.

LEAH: Alt meat, we should say meaning alternatives to meats, because I assume they don’t want to call them, like, synthetic meats or tofurkey. That was terrible. Tofurkey is terrible. Fake meat? Eh. None of it sounds very good.

LAURA: Yeah. Alternative sounds nice. And the alt meat industry is doing things to plants to make them more meat like so people who want to scratch that…meat itch can do it.

LEAH: Ew…let’s do it. Let’s scratch that meat itch.

LAURA: Yeah, “meat itch” might be one of the grosser things we’ll say on this episode…although maybe not!

[THEME MUSIC]

LAURA: This is The Edge, a podcast produced by California magazine and the Cal Alumni Association.

LEAH: Where we talk with Berkeley experts about how we’re going to stop doing things that humans have done for hundreds of thousands of years and, you know, do something else instead.

LAURA: Because we wrecked the planet?

LEAH: We sure did.

LAURA: I’m your host, Laura Smith.

LEAH: And I’m your other host, Leah Worthington.

[MUSIC OUT]

LAURA: Meat alternatives have been around for a really long time. In fact, there’s a document that was written in 10th century China that talks about how tofu was a good meat alternative. And they called it, “small mutton.”

LEAH: [Laughs] I’m calling tofu “small mutton” from now on.

LAURA: And in medieval Europe, they used to chop grapes and almonds and dice bread as a substitute for minced meat during Lent. It sounds kind of nice, actually. I could be into that.

LEAH: Sure, but there’s nothing you can do to a grape to make it seem like minced meat.

LAURA: Yeah, that’s true. But I’m alsodo you really want to eat minced meat? Minced meat sounds gross.

LEAH: I have absolutely no interest in minced meat.

LAURA: But minced grapes…that’s a go.

LEAH: Do you think instead of the meat, I could have some minced grapes? This was me at a medical restaurant. They said no.

LAURA: No, no. But in recent years, perhaps because of the intensifying concern about the environment, people are cutting back. So one in four Americans say that they’re trying to eat less meat. And this is according to a Gallup poll that was conducted earlier this year. And there seems to be a new wave of meatless meat-like products to match. So there’s a lot of emphasis on trying to make it seem like we’re eating meat. So they’re doing things to try to fake meat have a meat-like mouthfeel or make fake meat bleed and sort of conjure the umami flavors of meat. So take for example, Impossible Foods, to which Berkeley professor Michael Eisen is an advisor, and Beyond Burger. These are companies that are really trying to lure meat eaters into not eating meat because of concern for the environment. And they’re using a lot of cutting edge science to change the market.

LEAH: You were talking about Impossible FoodsI think the Impossible Foods CEO, his name’s Patrick Brown, he said that plant-based foods are going to “completely replace the animal-based products in the food world within the next 15 years.” That’s what he thinks at least.

LAURA: And Berkeley is uniquely positioned to be a leader in this because Berkeley is the home of the Alt: Meat Lab.

RICARDO SAN MARTIN: My name is Ricardo San Martin. And I am the research director of the Alt: Meat program that we have at the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology of UC Berkeley. And first of all, I’m not a vegan. I’m the non-vegan director of the vegan program. So the contradiction starts there.

LAURA: Ricardo is all about embracing contradiction. For example, he finds it very hard to change his ways when it comes to eating. So if you’re feeling like it would be really tough to make the switch from a ribeye to rutabaga, Ricardo is sympathetic.

RICARDO: My relationship with food in general is cultural. If you tell me, “you know, you’ve been eating all this stuff, but you know what? It’s bad what you’re doing now, you have to change,” for me, I could try and I’ve tried. But it’s hard giving away your things around food. It evokes too many things. It evokes memories, it evokes who you are, when you had this with someone. It’s cultural, it’s shared, because we normally eat together. So food is part of who we are.

LEAH: So what would you say to someone who says, “I like steak, and no alternative meat is going to replace the texture and flavor and experience of eating steak. And I’m never going to, I can’t give that up.”

RICARDO: What can I say? I mean, food is so personal. It’s who we are so, so I would respect that person, because that’s the way this person was raised, and how they see the world. I mean, I could tell them in terms of information, but that doesn’t take the behavior of anyone. Say, “you know, what, each time you eat a steak, you’re putting so much CO2 in the, you know, in the world, and you’re, and all the animals are suffering and all of that.” I mean, you could have the label in a cigarette telling you that you’re gonna die of cancer, you know, if you smoke.” There’s a lot of people that smoke still. These are not about information. This is about emotions. And that’s why I think change is so complex. And that’s why I don’t make any judgments or any statements. I work with Cal students and my job is to provide them with the best resources for them to make their own opinion around this, their own ideas, and for them to develop the best products they can come up with. But I bring the contradiction to the class.

LAURA: I find his views on meat consumption to be really nuanced. And he’s pretty critical of the CEO of Impossible Foods’ claim that we’re only going to be eating plant-based foods in 15 years.

LEAH: Okay, but clearly, he does think meat alternatives are important, and that eventually, we’ll all be eating more of those and less actual meat. And that’s where the Alt: Meat Lab comes in. So Laura, since the lab obviously isn’t some sort of propaganda machine for veggie burgers or whatever, can you tell us a little more about what it is for?

LAURA: The Alt: Meat Lab is this really unique hub, which is Silicon Valley speak for “place,” where students and entrepreneurs and researchers can all link up and try to solve the problem of how to make better alternative meats and…save the world. So they have business partners who pose real problems that their companies are having, and the students work in teams to try to solve them. And then they go out into the world and try to start their own meat-free companies. One of the issues that the lab is trying to address is that a lot of the alt meat products aren’t nearly as healthy as these companies claim. In fact, in many cases, they’re not really much healthier than meat.

LEAH: Yeah. So like we mentioned earlier, we’ve known for kind of a while now that eating a lot of meat isn’t great for you. And you know, a lot of meats are really high in fat, especially saturated fat, which eating too much of can lead to heart disease and cancer and other problems. Basically, you shouldn’t be eating a steak with every meal, right? But I always assumed that veggie burgers and whatever, you know, alternatives were good for you, they were the alternative, right? The alternative to the unhealthy meat option. Because they’re just plants, right?

RICARDO: I mean, there’s a whole narrative controlled by industry, that that’s super easy, that that’s something like, you know, if you see the ingredients in all this, in all the web pages of these companies, they will show you some beans, some potato flour, you know, a little bit of water, and that’s it, like you mix all this, and then suddenly you get a burger. I’m telling you, you’re not going to get a burger doing that. So in the processing, you also have to add additives for everything, right? You will have to add additives to bind the burger together. If you’re doing a burger in your house and you’re not vegan, you’re probably going to use an egg to do that. Well, here you cannot use the egg. So that not many things that do the trick of that when you cook them, they’re not going to crumble apart. You have to block those taste elements that plants have. So you have to add some blockers there.

LEAH: So you add something that tastes bad. So you have to add something else to block the taste of the bad tasting thing.

LAURA: Yeah, this is really spiraling out of control. But listen, it gets worse.

RICARDO: Then you have to add the fat because when you transform, let’s say a bean, a soybean into what’s called a “protein isolate,” and you transform that in a fibrous looking material, there’s a lot of processing that has to be done. And one of the key steps there is that you have to remove the oil of the soy. Once you do that, then you have to isolate the protein. When you have powder that looks, you know, very pure, it’s almost pharmaceutical grade the thing, then you have to put it in an extruder.

LEAH: This is not very appetizing to be honest. Yeah, I do not want to eat extruded food, or food that has its proteins isolated.

LAURA: I just want to eat an apple or a piece of bread. Something simple. Something less lab-coaty.

LEAH: Speaking of lab coats, like how does this happen? I’m picturing all these students in a kitchen, you know, with their vials measuring out weird proteins and sauteeing them on the stove. But I’m probably wrong. So what are they doing in there? Turning pineapples into pork chops?

LAURA: Sort of…

RICARDO: So it’s a kitchen. And on the side there’d all this machinery to test what you’re doing. The students try to understand deeply, at the molecular level, what is it that makes a bacon feel and look and cook and taste like a bacon. And they’re trying to find, in the plant kingdom, what is there that plants can have that could replace or mimic this, let’s say in this case, a bacon. And once they have like an idea of a prototype, they just do it. And then they test it and say “oh, it’s too soft,” or “it’s not chewy” or “it doesn’t cook really well.”

LAURA: And this can get really technical.

RICARDO: The students have to understand food at a very basic level. You have to understand food microstructure, why molecules associate one with each other, you know, what makes meat meat and meat fibers, they behave the way they behave, and the role of fat…all of that has to be understood at a very fundamental level.

LAURA: Leah, at this point in the interview, we were on Zoom. And so you and I could see him, and he pulled out this giant bag of what I can only describe as looking like stuff that you might find in the bottom of a gerbil cage.

RICARDO: [Rustles in bag] I know people will not be able to see this, but what you’re seeing this thing like a flaky material, that’s extruded protein. Okay?

LAURA: So it was a bag of isolated proteins, and we did not want to eat it at all.

LEAH: And apparently, that’s the kind of stuff that goes into a faux chicken nugget, which as you’ve heard us describe is very dry-looking. So Ricardo explained that, you know, in order to make it not disgusting and dry and protein-like, they have to add a lot of fats, you know like coconut oil and that sort of thing. So you don’t feel like you’re eating a mouthful of gerbil cage filler.

LAURA: Right, and the coconut oils and other oils have a lot of fats and those are not good for you in such high doses.

RICARDO: And the other important part is like, I mean, which I stress a lot to the students is like plant-based doesn’t have the benefits of plants. I mean, that’s the narrative of the industry again. Plant-based is like, I stripped the plant of the protein, basically, and I took all the fiber, the vitamins, the minerals, everything out because I needed to process that. But then they sell to you like, “oh, I’m eating plants.” No, you’re not eating, I mean if you want to eat plants eat quinoa with avocado, I mean, and in that sense like tofu is much more closer to what the soy has, than a processed, extruded protein isolate from soy.

LEAH: He has a point. I mean, these labels you know, like “plant-based” and all those other sorts of things, they make meat alternative sound all natural and healthy, you know. But in reality, a lot of this stuff is really synthetic, which, in addition to just what’s best for our bodies, raises some questions around, for me, personal comfort.

LAURA: No, totally. Which brings up what we mentioned at the beginning the importance of food and culture and traditions. And that’s something that Ricardo takes really seriously.

LEAH: Well, like for me, so I celebrate Hanukkah every year. And we have a tradition of having this special steak that comes from a local butchery down where I grew up. And, you know, I’m not a huge meat eater. But this steak is sort of integral to my Hanukkah experience; it’s hard to imagine Hanukkah without it. And, you know, in a world where we eat less and less meat, ideally, I would also skip the steak. But on the other hand, maybe a better and more impactful decision would be to enjoy that once-a-year, meat treat and try to reduce the amount of animal products that I eat on a regular basis.

LAURA: And some people might be fine with just cutting it all together, and the world would probably be a better place for it. In terms of the environment, at least.

LEAH: Which sort of gets to Ricardo’s ethos around innovating meat alternatives, where the goal is to make long term changes to our food systems that are adaptable to different people’s needs, not to, you know, convince everyone to eat tofu with every meal, which isn’t gonna happen. Not everyone likes small mutton!

LAURA: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s a pretty realistic view, like his goal is not to turn everyone into a vegan, but he obviously does think a major paradigm shift needs to occur both within the meat industry, within our approach to food in general, and also, within the meat industry, the non-alt meat industry, the regular meat industry, and in terms of our health, also. So all of these changes have to happen. And this might not be the same for every culture.

RICARDO: And so my message to the students really, is that there’s no clear definition here of what’s so good or what’s so bad. And that the ethical message of just replacing animals is not enough.

LEAH: I kind of like that he’s not pretending to have all the answers, you know?

LAURA: Yeah, it’s very unprofessorial. He’s not going to mansplain meat to us.

LEAH: Laura, you just missed the perfect opportunity to say “meat-splain.” 

[MUSIC]

LEAH: So I feel like we have a pretty good idea of what the Alt: Meat Lab is about. But why don’t we talk about some of Ricardo’s students and the really impressive work that they’re doing right now?

LAURA: So one of the cool things about the lab is that these students are developing real products that we could someday see on grocery store shelves or in restaurants. So for example, one of his students just started a company called Prime Roots, which uses a fungus called koji mushrooms to make these fish-like products, and they’re based right here in the East Bay.

LEAH: Oh, wow, that is very cool.

LAURA: And in this episode, we talk to another one of his former students who runs a company called Sundial Foods that is currently incubating like fake chickens in a startup accelerator in Switzerland.

JESSICA SCHWABACH: My name is Jessica Schwabach. I’m a current undergraduate student at UC Berkeley. I’m a senior graduating in May 2021. I study molecular and cell biology, my emphasis is genetics, genomics and development.

LAURA: Jessica met her future business partner, Siwen Deng, in Ricardo’s class.

LEAH: And they realized that there’s this hole in the alt meat market. There are a lot of, you know, black bean burger patties out there, but not a lot of cuts of meat, meaning not a lot of steak tenderloin or pork chops.

JESSICA: And so we thought it would be a really fun challenge to tackle to try and create something that really has the structure, the appearance, and the taste and texture of an actual cut of animal meat. Right now we’re focusing on chicken because that was the first thing we went with specifically dark chicken meat or dark chicken muscle. It sort of evolved from there, into the idea of a plant-based chicken drumstick.

LAURA: Wait so, what’s the bone if it’s a drumstick?

JESSICA: So we had a couple of different ideas around that. I think that the one that we went with for the prototype for the class was to use bamboo. The reviews of this concept were quite mixed. The bone is probably the most controversial aspect because what we’ve seen is that without it, it’s hard to tell that it’s a whole cut of meat or that really adds the emphasis of the fact that it’s a chicken drumstick. Plus, when you’re cooking it like on a barbecue, you kind of want that so you can hold it and carry it around. But the idea of it being edible is very strange to people. We had some funny ideas for the bone that we could make it out of something else that looks even more like a bone, but then we’re like, no, that’s just creepy, we don’t need to go that far. Like the way that they make dog treats. You can get like a really complex texture with like marrow and then like shape it and so we could do that. And another idea we had is that you can actually grow root vegetables into molds. So like we could grow carrots into a bone-shaped mold and then stick that in there and it would look like a cartoon bone. But…

LAURA: I kind of love the idea of that. I just love a little carrot snack in the middle of my fake chicken.

JESSICA: It would be kind of cute.

LAURA: As for the meat itself, they’re using chickpeas as the protein base.

LAURA: Mm, I like chickpeas. Alright.

JESSICA: We do too.

LEAH: Me too. They don’t taste like chicken though. But they do have the word “chick” in them.

LAURA: That helps.

LAURA: Yeah, so it’s a start.

LAURA: And so the way they make them is they mash chickpeas together, but chickpeas are sort of bitter, so they add some flavors. And right now they’re getting the flavor from a natural flavor company. But in the future, they’re hoping to make the flavor themselves.

LEAH: Right. And one of the issues that they’re facing that the whole alt meat industry is trying to deal with is just this dryness that is created from the kind of mashing together of these, you know, not very fatty products. So a lot of companies deal with this by just adding a lot of oil. But Jessica and Siwen are trying to find a healthier way to do this.

JESSICA: So health is definitely chief for us. I think one of our driving principles, and one that maybe sets us apart from other alternative meats companies, is that we never want to use ingredients that you can’t easily find in your kitchen cupboard. Every ingredient is natural. And we try as hard as we can to replicate the nutritional profile of chicken, at least with this product. So that’s like high protein, and the fat has to be a similar level to chicken for us.

LAURA: Do you all have any pictures of your product?

JESSICA: Yeah, we can send you some pictures.

LEAH: Wait, can you send one right now that we can…

JESSICA: Yeah. Okay, tell me when you can see it.

LEAH: Ah!

LAURA: Wow.

LEAH: That’s a chicken drumstick!

JESSICA: That’s the chicken.

LAURA: I am blown away. You even got the like crispyness. And the skin!

JESSICA: Yeah. So it has a plant-based skin also.

LEAH: Oh yeah.

LAURA: You’ve got herbs on there.

LEAH: Look at that. Yeah, you’ve got herbs, you’ve got a little bit of crispy where it got fried. You’ve got the non-bone bone sticking out.

LAURA: The only part that gives it away actually is the non-bone bone.

JESSICA: Yeah.

LAURA: I want to eat that.

LEAH: So we scrolled down and the next photo was the faux-chicken unseasoned.

LEAH: Oooooh, that looks like a body part.

LAURA: Yeah, it does look like a body part.

JESSICA: I don’t know if that’s good or bad. But thanks.

LAURA: I mean, it does look, it looks a lot like raw chicken, which does not look very appealing to me. You know?

JESSICA: Yeah, fair enough.

LAURA: Since their humble beginnings in someone’s kitchen, they’ve taken their company Sundial Foods to an accelerator or incubator or whatever, in Switzerland. And they’re trying to develop this product that started in the class. And so as a part of the accelerator, they sold their product for a little while in this big chain of Swiss grocery stores called Coop, in order to do some market research and figure out what was working and what wasn’t.

LEAH: This seems just so ambitious. Like the last thing I would try to replicate is something that’s like, so simple, and so purely meat.

LAURA: Yeah.

JESSICA: We hope that if we can do it, then like, conceptually, we’ve proven something for the plant-based meats industry that you can create anything from plants, so people don’t need to eat animals anymore.

[MUSIC IN]

LAURA: Leah, they’re just trying to change the world. Okay?

LEAH: One drumstick at a time.

JESSICA: One drumstick at a time. [Laughs]

[MUSIC OUT]

LEAH: Laura, I was thinking, have you heard of the phrase “uncanny valley”?

LAURA: That book about Silicon Valley?

LEAH: Yes. Well, that was the phrase that inspired the book title. But the phrase itself was originally coined by Masahiro Mori, who was at the time a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. And it basically describes this phenomenon, this effect, where as robots get more and more human-like, we like it, and we feel more comfortable around them, but only to a certain point. And then there’s this, like, valley where they get so human like that they can almost pass as actual humans, but not quite. And it just gets really creepy. And it just, like, really freaks us out. Like, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen one of those robots that just look like so human, but they’re like a little glitchy. And you’re just like, ah! It’s not quite a human.

LAURA: Yeah. Okay, I see what you’re saying. Like so, is there an uncanny valley for meat? A place where it gets to meet like, but it’s just a tweak off? So it seems like for Jessica and Siwen, they encountered the uncanny valley with the bone. Like people want fake meat, but maybe they draw the line at an edible parsnip molded into a chicken fibula.

LEAH: [Laughs] That’s a sentence that’s never been said before. Yeah, no, I mean, I think ultimately, it depends on what you want. Like, do you want to believe truly that you are eating meat, and actually trick yourself into believing that that bird-shaped slab of soy is a real Thanksgiving turkey? Or, perhaps like me, do you just want a little extra protein in your life? And who cares if it’s congealed legumes?

[MUSIC]

LEAH: So Laura, here we are at the end of the episode. Where are you with this whole meat eating thing?

LAURA: I’m with Ricardo. So, I think I’m going to eat less meat. And when I eat meat, I’m just going to do it with friends. So I do have some cultural attachments to eating meat. Like, imagine a dinner party in someone’s house—this is post COVID, we’ve all been vaccinated—and everyone is just sharing dishes and passing it around and trying things versus a dinner party where I’m like, “Well, I can only have that. Nope, I don’t want that. You know, don’t order that because I can’t eat that.” I just want something more fluid. So I think that when I’m with friends, I’m going to eat meat. And then when I’m at home, I’m just not going to cook it.

LEAH: Yeah that’s pretty much what I do.

LAURA: Although maybe in the future, if sharing is what I’m concerned about, maybe everyone will be veg, and we’ll be fighting over that last piece of braised mushroom or something.

LEAH: Ugh. A girl can dream.

LAURA: A girl can dream.

LEAH: Siwen and Jessica said that for them for Sundial, their target market is flexitarians, which are basically people who are trying to reduce their meat consumption but still eat it sometimes. You know, they’re flexible. And I think we’ve seen things like this, like if you’ve heard of meatless Mondays, or Veganuary, I think that’s how it’s pronounced, I’m not sure. Apparently 250,000 people signed a pledge to eat vegan for the month of January. And once it’s a fad, it’s like, you know, it makes it a little easier to happen. I want to be in on it.

LAURA: Yeah, a bunch of celebrities are going to do it. Jane Goodall, I guess that’s not surprising, but Ricky Gervais and Bryan Adams. Personally, I would love for there to be a cultural shift where we all eat less meat. And that seems very doable. So Leah, did you know that the Impossible Whopper was one of Burger King’s most successful products launched ever?

LEAH: You’re kidding. Oh my god, I thought that was gonna be a total flop.

LAURA: Yeah, it did really well. And it is available in all of their 7,000-plus locations, and a bunch of companies have followed suit, like White Castle and Carl’s Jr.

LEAH: But is it good for you?

LAURA: Well, this is sort of hard to quantify, but based on a review by some doctors who were interviewed by healthline.com, the answer is not really, or maybe only marginally. But I think one doctor explained it this way. “I wouldn’t define it as healthier, I would define it as more ethical.” So better for the planet may be the same for you.

LEAH: Wow. Well there you have it. End of meat-splain.

LAURA: Alt meat-splain.

LEAH: Ahem. [Laughs]

LAURA: So, Leah, you know what we need to do now?

LEAH: Ahhh, eat some…steak.

LAURA: No, Leah, we need to talk to the future generations. Our neighborhood kid.

LEAH: You’re right. Not meat. Yes, neighborhood kid.

LAURA: Don’t eat your neighborhood kid.

LEAH: [Laughs] Also that. Just to be clear.

LAURA: Not meat with Marco.

LEAH: “Not meat with Marco,” our new segment.

[THEME MUSIC]

MARCO: Yeah, my sister has been like really wanting these like plant-based chicken nuggets. That just doesn’t sound appealing really. But I’m thinking like, it’s a cool idea. And I think just keep working and it could go somewhere.

LAURA: This is The Edge brought to you by California magazine and the Cal Alumni Association. I’m Laura Smith.

LEAH: And I’m Leah Worthington.

LAURA: This episode was produced by Coby McDonald with support from Pat Joseph Special thanks to Jessica Schwabach, Siwen Deng, Brooke Kottmann, and California magazine intern Maddy Weinberg. Original music by Mogli Maureal.

LAURA: It’s glistening. It’s glistening. That chicken in the back is glistening in a way that’s very meaty.

LEAH: Mmm.

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