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The Promise of Impact Investing

Some of the most exciting developments for farm animals are happening in the private sector. Over 100 companies are selling ever better plant-based meat and dairy to an expanding market, while another two dozen are racing to sell the first animal products grown directly from cells. These companies’ products could one day eliminate farm animal suffering entirely. This exciting trend has prompted another one: impact investing to support these startups. The premise is simple: instead of investing your money in amoral (and at times immoral) corporations, invest it in startups working to end factory farming. It’s a win-win: you can do good by replacing animal products, while doing well by earning financial returns. There’s much to be said for this. The first investors in Beyond Meat were critical to its success and, with its imminent $100M IPO, are likely to make handsome returns. Startups have some inherent advantages over charities: they typically have clearer and easier-to-measure goals (sales), find it easier to attract talent (thanks to prestige, stock options, and often higher salaries), and are subject to more market pressure to be efficient. So should supporters of farm animals focus our financial resources more on impact investing and less on philanthropy?