Recap of the Second Annual Reducetarian Summit
The second annual Reducetarian Summit took place about a week and a half ago in Los Angeles. I might still be recovering (in a good way).
I wasn’t able to make it in 2017, but am so happy I could attend this year and participate in the three-day event, packed with talks, panel discussions, events, and of course food samples. I arrived Thursday night and stayed until Monday morning, and was able to attend most of the events associated with the summit.
On Friday evening, attendees could register early as well as fill their reducetarian-themed canvas bags with some delicious goodies and vegan products, including signed copies of The Reducetarian Cookbook.
Brown’s talk was informative, interesting, and most importantly, optimistic. He stated that his goal was to “replace meat with Beyond Meat,” leading to a “growth not subtraction in consumption.” According to Brown, taking the “animal out of the equation entirely” is a “big scientific challenge,” and:
“It will take more than one or two times to perfectly make meat from plants—but it is possible. Meat is not a mystery.”
His talk also included scenes from the South Park “Beyond” episode, as well as the A&W commercial promoting the debut of the Beyond Burger in all Canadian locations, which made this Canadian particularly happy. During the Q&A session we also learned that Beyond Meat has a lot of “new products in the lab,” and that there will be 2.0 and 3.0 versions of just about everything–until they are “indistinguishable from meat.” Brown also added that the breakfast patty is his favorite product so far, and that it is “coming soon.”
The discussion between Kateman and Shermer was definitely different than what I expected, and Shermer really praised the reducetarian movement, stating it was a great way to “avoid the mentality of punishing ‘sinners'” and instead “attract the [meat-eating] 90% majority.”
Bright and early on Saturday, the summit really kicked off. We were welcomed by Kateman and Carlyn Cowen of the Reducetarian Foundation and Tim Finnigan of Quorn. Kateman spoke about his personal experience as an environmentalist “connecting the dots after learning about animal agriculture,” and that his journey to vegetarianism was “not about perfection.” With a short exercise, he reminded us not to lose sight of how much we actually have in common with others, whether they are vegans, vegetarians, reducetarians, flexitarians or omnivores. Considering how many people were there with a shared common goal, this was definitely a common theme throughout the weekend.
We also caught a glimpse of a new documentary being worked on by the Reducetarian Foundation on why people eat meat. While there are no specifics regarding the release date, I am definitely looking forward to it after watching the teaser. Kateman ended his talk with the always powerful quote:
“Let’s relegate factory farming to where it belongs: in the dustbin of history.”
To keep this recap relatively concise and short, I will point out my personal highlights from both Saturday and Sunday. For those interested, you can still view the entire schedule here.
Campaigning for Change: How can we influence companies to adopt progressive welfare standards?: This talk featured Rachel Dreskin of Compassion in World Farming, Chris Liptrot of The Humane League, and Molly Chafetz of Green Century Capital Management, and was moderated by Dylan Matthews of Vox. A nice mix of different viewpoints led to a very interesting discussion, as well as examples of positive change. Dreskin stressed that we should always “strive to find that seed of commonality” with others, keeping the theme of Kateman’s opening talk strong. Chafetz also noted how different organizations with different strategies can inadvertently work together to get to the same goal, citing an example with Kellogg’s, where a success story resulted from both “inside and outside pressure.”
Food Justice: How can we better address the intersection of food, food access, health, and environmental issues?: This talk featured Naijha Wright-Brown of The Land of Kush, Keith Tucker of Hip Hop is Green and Olympia Auset of SÜPRMARKT LA and was moderated by Aryenish Birdie of Encompass. The discussion was a great wake up call and reminder to avoid associating veganism alone with food justice. Tucker emphasized that once we “move hip hop in a green direction, the world will move in a green direction,” and stressed that he doesn’t want to “talk about food justice,” but rather “do food justice.” Auset emphasized the importance of having “culturally relevant cuisine,” and spoke about food deserts and how they significantly limit the ability to make healthy and/or plant-based choices.
A Technological Revolution: How can we deploy advancements in cellular agriculture in order to create competitive, palatable cultured meat, egg and dairy products?: This talk featured Arturo Elizondo of Clara Foods, Alexander Lorestani of Geltor, Benjamina Bollag of Higher Steaks, and Lou Cooperhouse of BlueNalu, moderated by Jon Shieber of TechCrunch. This was one of the talks I was looking the most forward to, and it definitely exceeded my expectations. Elizondo noted that in just 15 years unnecessary “random” ingredients such as beetle juice or isinglass “will be on the way out” and replaced. Cooperhouse stated that in terms of seafood, a “disruptive answer” is needed to deal with the “high demand, low supply” nature of it, and that BlueNalu‘s goal is to “supplement the current supply.” He also added that the company is planning to add more products to its range in the future, including eel.
(Missed opportunities: while I did try and attend as many talks and breakout sessions as possible, I of course missed a few due to them happening simultaneously with other events. I particularly regret missing the talk titled When Reality Meets Narrative: What are the opportunities and challenges associated with mass communication media? as well as Plant-Powered: How can we build mainstream popularity of plant-based foods and ingredients?.)
The Marquis Ballroom of the Marriott Hotel was dedicated to a few networking events, but it was mostly associated with hosting our delicious breakfasts and lunches, as well as vegan food vendors and organizations. I believe I was able to visit most of the booths, and my personal highlights were:
JUST: As I am based in Canada, learning about all of the innovative products JUST keeps rolling out in the United States can be a little jealousy-inducing. When I realized the company would not only have a booth at the event but also showcase JUST Cookie Dough as well as JUST Egg (as part of a “deconstructed burrito” courtesy of Veggie Grill), I was beyond excited. The team was one of the friendliest there and answered all of my questions, including where I could buy JUST Egg locally (sadly, I did not have enough time). Both the chocolate chip and birthday cake cookie dough samples exceeded my already high-expectations, and JUST Egg as part of the deconstructed burrito bowl had to be one of the most interesting things I’ve ever tasted. I let mine get cold due to photo-taking, but it definitely tasted like scrambled eggs, and combined with the rest of the ingredients in the mini bowl, was a delicious addition to our lunch.
Before the Butcher: I had never heard of this company before, and really enjoyed the burger, Italian sausage and ground chorizo samples. All were extremely flavorful, and definitely tasted like their meat-based inspirations. They had a lot of options on display, but the sausage was the winner in my books.
Veestro: As I am currently writing an article on Veestro, I was very pleasantly surprised to find the company at one of the booths. I was able to try the freshly prepared Red Curry Tofu, which was very rich and delicious, making me even more excited about this plant-based gourmet meal delivery service.
Pure Blends: I almost missed Pure Blends since there was always a sizable crowd around them, and am so happy I was able to try the company’s avocado and coconut-based butter alternatives. Both were delicious, although I enjoyed coconut a little more. The spreads were also available during breakfast to butter our toast with.
That’s It: I wouldn’t have guessed that a fruit-based company that uses minimal ingredients would make its way to my top vegan food sample choices during this event, but I was wrong. Not only were the samples delicious, particularly the fruit and chocolate truffle, but also the cherry and apple bar I took to try later. Literally made with those two ingredients, I decided to eat it on my plane ride home and was taken aback by how delicious and flavorful it was. Despite the name, I checked out the ingredients to confirm it really was just made with apples and cherries.
HIPPEAS: I saw the HIPPEAS booth on the last day of the summit and was excited to meet the enthusiastic and friendly rep and grab a sample of the white cheddar flavored chickpea-based snack, although I didn’t really know what to expect. I tried the package of puffs later on that night, and immediately regretted not having enough time to scour Los Angeles and buy a few bags to take home with me. They were absolutely delicious and unlike any other vegan snack or chip I have ever tried. They definitely had a vegan cheetos-vibe to them, but much healthier, although you would never realize that due to the incredible flavor.
I also really enjoyed the relaxed mingle/happy hour by the pool on Saturday night, which provided a great opportunity to get to know people outside of the jam-packed summit. The networking sessions could have been a little more structured, but there were so many opportunities to chat with speakers, moderators and attendees that I didn’t really feel like I was missing out.
The only con of the summit was that there were so many great discussions happening at once. While most of the time I could eventually settle on one, a couple of times (see: missed opportunities), it was not as easy to decide. And when I say I needed time to recover, I really do mean that as a positive thing. I learned a lot over the weekend, and although there were moments of “information overload,” it was in the best way possible. I didn’t want to miss a second—though I did skip the morning meditation and yoga sessions…maybe next time!
The date and location of the third annual Reducetarian Summit has already been announced, and will take place September 27-29, 2019, in Washington D.C. As this year’s theme was “action,” I look forward to finding out what next year’s summit will be centered on and hope to see many new and familiar faces there!