Axios What's Next
November 03, 2023
Now trending: "Reducetarianism," which calls for eating less meat without dropping burgers and wings altogether.
Today's newsletter is 1,219 words ... 4½ minutes.
1 big thing: "Reducetarians" push for less meat
A conference for "Reducetarians" — people who want to reduce meat and dairy consumption — drew 600 people to Denver this week, but theirs is an uphill battle, Jennifer reports.
Why it matters: While there are health and environmental benefits to paring back our meat and dairy intake, getting people to switch to plant-based alternatives has been a tough sell — and meat consumption is higher than ever.
- The Reducetarian message is that you don't have to go full vegetarian or vegan to make a difference.
- The organization, which aims to eliminate factory farming, is trying to build a movement of people who want meat consumption curtailed worldwide — no matter their personal motives.
- The agenda focused on everything from regenerative agriculture and cell-cultivated meat to advances in plant-based foods.
- "There's environmentalists, there's animal advocates, there's health advocates, there's food justice advocates," Brian Kateman, head of the Reducetarian Foundation, told Axios. "And then there are the folks who are engaging in lobbying or policy."
Zoom in: The trade show floor featured an offbeat mélange of food companies, whose wares were of interest to everyone from vegan venture capitalists to animal rights lawyers.
- Exhibitors included Bored Cow, which makes a milk alternative from "animal-free whey protein" and "upcycled citrus fiber," and Meati, which uses mushroom root to make cutlets that mimic chicken and beef.
- A chocolate company called TCHO, based in Berkeley, California, showed off how it had recently ditched milk chocolate for all-plant formulations.
- "We were able to drop our carbon footprint by like 75%," said Brad Kintzer, chief chocolate maker at TCHO. "We got a little bit of hate mail, but overall we're feeling really psyched about it."
The big picture: The topic of meat-eating is an ongoing battleground, with strong feelings on all sides.
- "Vegan" has become such a dirty word that companies now deliberately use the term "plant-based" instead.
- Despite the evidence and arguments in favor of reducing meat consumption — health, environmental, animal welfare — the fact remains that meat tends to be cheaper and tastier than its imitators.
- While plant-based foods have proliferated in supermarkets and restaurants, the sector appears to be in trouble — and cell-cultivated meat, which is grown in steel vessels called bioreactors, is still a long way from commercial reality.
What they're saying: Kateman, who co-founded the Reducetarian Foundation nearly a decade ago, knows it's not realistic to ask people to give up meat entirely, and instead focuses on coaxing them to pare back their consumption — however much, and for whatever reasons they choose.
- "If we could get a lot of people to cut back a small amount, that would arguably — just pure math — make a much greater difference than getting a small number of highly committed people to go vegetarian or vegan," says Kateman, who published a book last year called "Meat Me Halfway."
- The average American ate nearly 227 pounds of red meat and poultry in 2022, per USDA figures — up from 225 in 2021.
- The figure in 1960 was 167 pounds — 60 pounds less than today. "Every year it basically goes up," Kateman said.
Yes, but: The USDA projects that the figure is declining this year, and will do so again in 2024.
What's next: Next year's Reducetarian Summit will be in Dallas — the better to attract people who aren't the usual-suspect coastal liberals.
2. Why AI "labeling" falls short
As AI continues embedding itself in our digital tools and our lives, it's getting harder to draw clear lines between what's AI-generated and what's not, Axios' Scott Rosenberg writes.
What's happening: Legislators, regulators and ethicists are going all in on requiring labeling for AI-created work. But as AI use becomes more of a human-machine collaboration, labeling will lose its coherence and meaning.
Driving the news: The Biden administration's new AI executive order directs the Commerce Department to come up with a scheme for "watermarking" works produced by AI.
- Meanwhile, lawmakers have introduced an AI Labeling Act that requires "clear and conspicuous" disclosure of AI-generated content across all media types.
Why it matters: Labeling advocates argue that clearly distinguishing between the work of humans and that of AI will help the public cope with an expected onslaught of synthetic video, audio, images and texts.
Yes, but: It's easy enough to demand that you stamp "Created by ChatGPT" on entire essays the chatbot spits out in response to your prompt.
- But the moment you start using an AI tool as a collaborator — to brainstorm ideas, sketch out alternatives, fill in an outline's blanks or touch up a final draft — you face tougher questions about provenance and authorship, and binary "human or AI" labeling becomes inadequate.
3. Headwinds for offshore power
Why it matters: The move comes as several similar projects are facing delays and potential cancellations amid higher interest rates, inflation and supply chain problems.
- This imperils the White House's goal of installing 30 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2030.
The big picture: 30% of planned U.S. offshore wind capacity contracted through state procurements has been canceled so far, per research firm ClearView Energy Partners.
Yes, but: ClearView remains optimistic about long-term growth.
- The demise of some projects, it added, may prompt Biden administration officials to ensure that developers can tap the full suite of credits available under the climate law.
4. Why we're still turning back the clock
The political fight to make daylight saving time permanent isn't over, Axios' Kelly Tyko reports.
The big picture: Most of the country will "fall back" to standard time this Sunday, as proposed legislation to end the twice-yearly changing of the clocks has sat idle in Congress since March.
Why it matters: Health groups and sleep experts have long called for an end to the seasonal shifting of the clocks.
- The spring switch to daylight saving time is "associated with significant public health and safety risks," like an increased risk of heart problems, mood disorders and car crashes, per the American Medical Association.
Flashback: In March, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) reintroduced the Sunshine Protection Act, which passed the Senate by unanimous consent last year but didn't get a House vote.
- This year's Senate bill has been referred to the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, but there has been no other movement.
What they're saying: Rubio, who has filed similar legislation regularly since 2018, told Axios that he is "hopeful that we can finally get this done."
Reality check: The national effort to stop the clock changes has failed or stalled for years due to a lack of congressional support.
- There are regional differences over who benefits from changing to permanent daylight saving time or standard time.
Flashback: In the 1970s, the last time Congress made daylight saving time permanent, the decision was reversed in less than a year after the early morning darkness proved dangerous for school children and public sentiment changed.
Editor's note: Yesterday's story about EV battery jobs has been updated to reflect that the size of the raises for Ultium Cells workers remains unclear.
- It has also been updated to reflect that workers at upcoming Ford and Stellantis battery joint ventures must join the UAW to be covered by its "master agreement."
Was this email forwarded to you? Get your daily dose of What's Next by signing up here for our free newsletter.