Post #40: Unbundling the cow

Say the word ‘cow’ to most people and the image that comes to mind is of a four-legged beast munching ruminatively on grass in a bucolic surrounding.

Post #40: Unbundling the cow

Say the word ‘cow’ to most people and the image that comes to mind is of a four-legged beast munching ruminatively on grass in a bucolic surrounding. At one level this is correct, but at another, it is totally incorrect. The direction in which science is pushing implies a reconsideration of the cow (or any other animal for that matter) as simply a package of nutrients: proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals and the like. Furthermore, if the authors of a recent report are correct, then even that scene of the cow in the field may disappear before not too long…

We were intrigued to read a report called “Rethinking Food & Agriculture,” published recently by RethinkX, an independent US-based think-thank which focuses on technological change. For sure, its forecasts are designed to capture attention, but they do bear consideration. Per the report, by 2030, demand for cow-based products will have fallen by 70%. Even prior to this date, the authors contend that the US cattle industry will be “effectively bankrupt” with America’s cow population having at least halved. Pigs and chickens will not be immune, but more startlingly, crop farming volumes (such as soy and corn) are also forecast to have shrunk by more than 50%.

The factor driving such radical projections is the emergence of a new model; think of it as food-as-software. In this future world, foods will be engineered by scientists at a molecular level and then uploaded to databases. These could then theoretically be accessed by food ‘designers’ anywhere in the world. Conventional farming and food production would be replaced by what some are calling precision biology – the effective marriage of genetic engineering and synthetic biology with distributed cloud and machine learning technologies.

Given the nascent success of ‘alternative proteins’ such as the Beyond and Impossible burgers, further innovation in this field seems inevitable. However, to suggest that conventional food products may disappear within a generation seems potential hyperbole. While your author does not have a background in science, it remains unclear how scalable might be these emerging technologies, above and beyond whether either regulators approve, or consumers accept them. Alt meat/protein should be seen as complementary in our view rather than simply as a pure substitute. The debate will continue to run.


The document is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute investment advice or any recommendation to buy, or sell or otherwise transact in any investments. The document is not intended to be construed as investment research. The contents of this document are based upon sources of information which Heptagon Capital believes to be reliable. However, except to the extent required by applicable law or regulations, no guarantee, warranty or representation (express or implied) is given as to the accuracy or completeness of this document or its contents and, Heptagon Capital, its affiliate companies and its members, officers, employees, agents and advisors do not accept any liability or responsibility in respect of the information or any views expressed herein. Opinions expressed whether in general or in both on the performance of individual investments and in a wider economic context represent the views of the contributor at the time of preparation. Where this document provides forward-looking statements which are based on relevant reports, current opinions, expectations and projections, actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements. All opinions and estimates included in the document are subject to change without notice and Heptagon Capital is under no obligation to update or revise information contained in the document. Furthermore, Heptagon Capital disclaims any liability for any loss, damage, costs or expenses (including direct, indirect, special and consequential) howsoever arising which any person may suffer or incur as a result of viewing or utilising any information included in this document. 

The document is protected by copyright. The use of any trademarks and logos displayed in the document without Heptagon Capital's prior written consent is strictly prohibited. Information in the document must not be published or redistributed without Heptagon Capital's prior written consent. 

Heptagon Capital LLP, 63 Brook Street, Mayfair, London W1K 4HS
tel +44 20 7070 1800
fax +44 20 7070 1881
email [email protected] 

Partnership No: OC307355 Registered in England and Wales Authorised & Regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority 

Related Insights

Featured Insights
Featured Insights22 July 2021

Season 3, Post 29: Quiz time

Your one and only question is the following: what do electric vehicles and plant-based burgers have in common? The answer: they’re both getting better the whole time. As improvements to these products occur, so adoption levels should increase. This intriguing analogy was made to us by the Chief Executive of Meatless Farm, Morten Toft Bech, […]

Learn more
Featured Insights
Featured Insights15 July 2021

Season 3, Post 28: The magic of mushrooms

Mycelium-tech could be the next big thing. You might think you are familiar with the humble mushroom. Fried, they work well as a breakfast option, for example. Alternatively, they could perhaps be chopped into a pasta dish or salad. However, when you buy mushrooms in your local store or – even better – see them […]

Learn more
Featured Insights
Featured Insights06 July 2021

Season 3, Post 27: Take a trip on the hyperloop

Imagine being able to get from central London to Edinburgh in less than an hour, or from downtown New York to San Francisco in fewer than five. Think of all that extra time you would save. Travelling the former route by train currently takes close on four hours, while, a coast-to-coast US trip might require […]

Learn more

Get The Updates

Separated they live in Bookmarks right at the coast of the famous Semantics, large language ocean Separated they live in Bookmarks right


Sign up to our monthly email newsletter for the latest fund updates, webcasts and insights.