Burned book


  • Retail sales: Only fitting that on Amazon Prime Day #2, retail sales beat expectations for June. Online shopping is now the second biggest slice of the $520 billion U.S. retail market.
  • Fed: When in the City of Love, always mention you’re “carefully monitoring” downside risks to U.S. growth. Speaking at the Bank of France, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said he’s committed to sustaining this decade’s economic expansion.
  • U.S. markets: We’ve got this feeling that everyone’s on vacation and didn't invite us.

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Throw Facebook on the Barbie

Top lawmakers grilled Facebook (-0.03%) in a tense Senate hearing yesterday, questioning the social network’s plan to launch its own digital currency.

The 15-second backstory: Last month, Facebook unveiled Libra, a cryptocurrency aimed at expanding global financial services. But before Zuck could say “democratize banking,” critics pounced with tough questions for Libra, especially given FB’s prior data troubles.

Which brings us to yesterday

The Senate Banking Committee stuffed Facebook’s blockchain head David Marcus in a crypto locker over the company’s market power and previous mistakes, arguing Libra would only expand Facebook’s online dominance.

Sen. Sherrod Brown: “Like a toddler who has gotten his hands on a book of matches, Facebook has burned down the house over and over, and called every arson a learning experience.”

Sen. Martha McSally: “I don’t trust Facebook...instead of cleaning up your house, you are starting a new business model.”

Marcus: “We agree with all of the concerns.” His other rebuttals?

  • Facebook is just one of almost 30 firms that would run Libra.
  • Libra won’t launch until all regulatory concerns are addressed.
  • Calibra, the Switzerland-based subsidiary running Libra, won’t share users’ financial info with Facebook.

FYI, Marcus did have some allies in the room. “To strangle this baby in the crib is premature,” said struggling novelist and senator Patrick J. Toomey. “I think we should be...considering the benefits and concerns.”

Big picture: These senators join Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Fed Chair Jerome Powell, and even President Trump on the growing list of Libra skeptics. But the hearing also resurfaced an even bigger question—how will cryptocurrencies be regulated by the federal government?

Looking ahead...Facebook has said it wants to launch Libra in earnest next year. But first it’ll have to testify before the House Financial Services Committee, which is firing up the grill for its hearing later today.


A Family Disagreement in Detroit

Detroit’s finest car companies have begun contract talks with the United Auto Workers union (UAW). We’re getting to crunch time: The UAW has almost 150,000 members working for three major Detroit automakers, and all of their four-year labor contracts end September 14.

First, the talking stick goes to the automakers. WSJ sources said GM, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler want:

  • Concessions on healthcare benefits
  • More flexibility with temporary workers
  • Help addressing underused factories (at least in GM's and Ford's cases)

Now the UAW gets the stick. It wants:

  • The companies to hire more permanent workers and give temporary ones more security
  • Wage increases

Zoom out: Labor costs for Detroit's Big Three fell drastically following the 2008 financial crisis, but they’ve been growing since around 2015—and workers have come to expect higher wages. Per the WSJ, almost 42% of the unionized workforce at Ford, GM, and Fiat Chrysler has never experienced a slowdown in the U.S. auto sector. But if a slowdown comes, the companies say paying those escalating wages would be unsustainable.


Substack Raises the Stacks

Two-year-old email newsletter platform Substack raised $15.3 million in a Series A led by Andreessen Horowitz and joined by Substack’s incubator, Y Combinator.

What it is: Substack provides writers and other creators the digital infrastructure they need to start a free or paid email newsletter. Here's a look at a Substack author in action...
The company doesn’t charge creators when they launch, but it does skim 10% off subscription revenue. Substack has also added podcasting and discussion thread functions on top of newsletters.

Zoom out: The email newsletter industry is dear to our hearts, but we’ve read on the internet that some people don’t follow media trends like they’re Prime Day updates. To review:

  • Print media = , digital media = but no , email newsletters = potential solution for writers.
  • Substack said it currently has 50,000 paying subscribers, and the most popular authors are making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

Co-founder Chris Best said Substack will use the money to hire developers and “writer relations specialists.” We can’t speak for all writers, but those specialists should come equipped with extra coffee and highly developed ego-stroking skills.


The Future of Meat Is...in a Lab?

While Wall Street is still drooling over Beyond Meat, researchers are looking one step ahead to the next generation of meat cultivation: cellular agriculture.

What it is: Cellular agriculture uses cultures to build cell-based products outside of an organism. This can include animal-derived products, such as meat, eggs, and dairy, as well as byproducts like silk, leather, and fur.

  • The foundations—biotechnology and tissue engineering—have already been established in clinical settings (think regenerative medicine). But unlike a "lab-grown" kidney, you don’t have to worry about putting the lab-grown filet mignon into the cow. Just don’t overcook it.

The first hamburger grown in a lab burned the roofs of taste-testers' mouths in 2013. But it cost $330,000, and that was before guac. Researchers are betting that in a few years, similar meat products will 1) be affordable and 2) taste and feel even more like the "real" thing.

The warm reception of plant-based meat alternatives (like Beyond Meat) is a good indicator of future demand for cellular agriculture products. Consumers want clean, ethical, and sustainable food, and meat farmed in a lab setting could change what it means to be “vegetarian” or “vegan.”

Prepare to debate what counts as meat. Plant-based products have already received pushback from the meat and dairy industries over labeling. Even cauliflower rice has not emerged unscathed.

Actually, let's debate it right now. Should cell-based, lab-developed meat count as real meat? Vote here.

Boil it down

The promise: Clean, sustainable, safe meat products, without any of the ethical or environmental problems that plague today’s livestock and aquaculture industries.

The roadblocks: Cellular agriculture has never been conducted on a commercial scale or with price constraints. Customers also have to get on board.

The projected timeline: Researchers are betting that in a few years, cellular agriculture-derived meat products will be affordable and taste and feel even more like the "real" thing.

The major players: Meat (Aleph Farms, Mosa Meat, Memphis Meats), seafood (Finless Foods, BlueNalu), and animal-derived products (Clara Foods, Perfect Day Foods, Modern Meadow).


There’s More to Sea Here Than Lab-Grown Burgers

Meat alternatives or replacements have mainly focused on land-based animals (slimy scales and buggy eyes don’t pull at consumers’ heartstrings quite like baby cows). But the seafood industry is also ripe for scientific disruption.

  • Global aquaculture, aka agriculture but for fish, has not been able to keep up with skyrocketing demand over the last few decades.
  • Overfishing is a problem, but it’s not the only one. The ocean is serving chemicals and plastics right back to us through garnishes you didn’t ask for on your fish tacos.

That’s where cellular aquaculture comes in. The startup BlueNalu is trying to grow many types of fish off of a species-agnostic base. It’s starting with fin fish, then hitting the gym to build mussels (along with other crustaceans) and mollusks.

Bonus: Besides eliminating toxic chemicals like mercury, cellular aquaculture can also create fish in its final filet form. You might never have to peel a shrimp or pull a fishbone out of your teeth again.

Double bonus: Did a sheep make this chart?


Take the Leap

If you want to learn more about the future of food, we've got you covered. To start off, we wrote a longer article featuring expert voices in cellular agriculture, which you can read here.

And if you’re ready to take the floaties off and venture into even deeper water, check out these resources:

  • Last month, the cellular aquaculture startup Wild Type brought its lab-grown fish to the dinner table in Portland, OR. Check out the menu and pics, then tell us you wouldn’t try that sushi.
  • This excerpt from Amanda Little’s new book, The Fate of Food: What We’ll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World, details her visit to Memphis Meats, a cell-based meat company.
  • For the visual learners out there, take advantage of this doodle explaining what cellular agriculture is, its benefits compared to traditional meat production, and the areas in which the field still falls short.
  • Alex Shirazi’s Cultured Meat and Future Food podcast regularly features some of the top names in cellular agriculture, such as Finless Foods CEO Mike Selden and Aleph Farms CEO Didier Toubia.

    • Big Bank earnings continued. Roll call: Wells Fargo (-3.02%) reported higher profit on flat sales. JPMorgan (+1.10%) topped expectations though trading activity was down. Goldman Sachs (+1.87%) profit and revenue shrank annually but beat expectations.
    • Big Tech faced its largest congressional antitrust hearing in 20 years yesterday. Execs said competition is everywhere...lawmakers disagreed.
    • Apple (-0.35%) is planning to fund a slate of original podcasts that it would house exclusively on its own platform, per Bloomberg.
    • HBO’s Game of Thrones earned the most Emmy nominations of any program ever, topping NYPD Blue’s previous record when Emmy nods dropped yesterday. We can’t offer a rewrite, but we can give you the full list of nominees.
    • McDonald’s (-0.21%) is ending its exclusive delivery deal with Uber Eats, tapping DoorDash as a new partner.


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