Hamburger expert Bill Gates tests plant-based meat, with Dick’s burgers as a scientific control

Bill Gates knows burgers.

When Microsoft moved from Albuquerque to the Seattle region back in the 1980s, the nearby Burgermaster in Bellevue, Wash., was basically the company’s cafeteria. More recently, a photograph of the billionaire standing in line for a burger at Seattle fast-food mainstay Dick’s Drive-In went viral, much to his own surprise.

These days, Gates is focusing heavily on issues of climate and sustainability, all of which makes him the perfect person for a cameo on Mark Rober’s new episode about plant-based burgers and other meat alternatives. The popular YouTuber, an engineer known for his imaginative and sometimes outlandish experiments and projects, cooks and serves plant-based burgers and bratwurst to Gates.

So what does Gates think? Before we get to that, as longtime Seattle residents, we need to call Rober out for a highly offensive remark about a mainstay of our culinary scene. Sitting down with Gates in the video, Rober uses Dick’s burgers as a scientific control, establishing a baseline for assessing the plant-based alternatives.

Mark Rober and Bill Gates get ready for their taste test. (Screenshot via YouTube)

“As a non-Seattle native, I’ve gotta say, I think this may be an acquired taste,” Rober says, obviously not impressed.

“Yeah, you get used to a certain burger,” Gates replies.

Uh, what??!! Looking down with his arms folded, Gates was clearly too stunned by Rober’s remark to offer a strong defense in the moment, so let us say that we’ve got a serious beef with this entire premise. First of all, we know that there isn’t a Dick’s Drive-In anywhere near Gates’ offices, so those burgers were either cold or reheated, which is clearly not a valid control. And earlier in the episode, Rober acknowledged being a fan of In-N-Out burgers, which immediately disqualifies him as a burger expert, in our own very expert opinion.

OK, now that we’ve set the record straight on this extremely important issue, let’s move on to the point of the video: Gates likes plant-based meat on multiple levels.

First of all, the taste: “It’s quite good,” Gates says, with a mouthful of plant-based burger, calling it “light-years away” from traditional veggie burgers.

“The quality is going to keep getting better,” he adds. “The plant-based guys are not done innovating. Eventually they claim you won’t be able to tell the difference.”

If it sounds like Gates has more experience with fake meat than the video lets on, he does. He has been an investor in two of biggest names in the business, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, both of which are featured in the episode.

As the video explains, avoiding animal meat is considerably better for the environment, making more efficient use of energy by removing animals as a “middleman” in the food chain, as Rober puts it.

This plays directly into Gates’ broader focus on climate change, as outlined in the annual letter from Bill and Melinda Gates earlier this week. (Rober’s video is supported in part by Bill and Melinda Gates as part of the promotional rollout for the annual letter.) The Microsoft co-founder’s book on climate change, “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster,” is due out this spring.

“The agriculture sector is about 18% of overall emissions,” Gates tell Rober. “Livestock is about half of that 18%. Almost all of that is beef.”

The video concludes with a clear explanation of the underlying science, in trademark Rober style. We’re longtime fans of his work, his questionable taste in burgers notwithstanding, and the entire video is worth watching.

See our video above for Gates’ take on the ultimate debate in Seattle burgers: Dick’s vs. Burgermaster. Also see our take on Impossible Foods’ pork alternative below.

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