Princeton University, NJ

Business Programming – Innovation in the Food Industry

Panel Title: Northeast Entrepreneurs in Packaged Food and Retail

Description: Creating a powerful brand that can transcend consumer categories and demonstrate wide appeal is a tall order for any company, but especially for companies dedicated to social and environmental progress – companies that are too often considered by investors as nothing more than niche product providers. However, there is a small but growing number of business leaders in the region who have used their backgrounds in the business world to jumpstart their new triple bottom line businesses. They continually inform their companies’ directions with the skills and training they received in their previous professional careers and endeavor to build compelling brands that captivate consumers far beyond the oft-lamented small-scale niche market. This panel will examine the successes and complications that vegan business owners experience across a variety of markets and product categories while looking at what strategies these companies plan to use in the future.

Panelists: Arshad BahlPeter Kidd Joseph HolderJoel Henry, and Michael Schwarz 

Arshad Bahl is the Founder of Amrita Health Foods. After resolving a set of serious health problems for himself and his family using a plant-based diet, Arshad was inspired to create Amrita – a plant-based nutrition company, focusing on healthy endurance and recovery bars for active people.

Arshad lives in Westchester County, New York with his wife Taskeen, an executive on Wall Street, and their three children Ayaan, Ayesha, and Aliya. Arshad has served on the Board of Directors for SPARC Inc., a non-profit organization focused on helping kids and young adults with developmental disabilities across Westchester County. Arshad has spent nearly 20 years with Fortune 50 companies in senior roles. In July 2013, he decided to move from his corporate role to focusing his energies on making Amrita successful.

Education: BA, St. Lawrence University; MA, Clark University; MBA, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Peter Kidd works closely with HipCityVeg founder Nicole Marquis in the corporate department of Marquis & Co., LLC. An attorney and musician, he became interested in a plant-based diet after personally experiencing the rejuvenating health effects of green smoothies and plant-focused cuisine. He made the switch to a plant-based diet about two years ago, with no regrets, and is using his career as a tool to share accessible, healthy cuisine with others.

Education: AB, Princeton University; JD, Drexel University

Joseph Holder is the Northeast Marketing Manager for Health Warrior, a company that focuses on the distribution of chia seeds and the production of a gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, and vegan superfood chia bar that combines both health and tasty snacking. Joe specializes in the digital presence of Health Warrior while also spurring on various marketing initiatives that serve to promote and increase the market share of Health Warrior in the Greater NY area. Joe was also a member of the 3-time Ivy League Champion football team which helped him better understand the significance of a plant-based diet for improving performance on the field and improving quality of life off it. This interest then turned into a passion and profession as he decided to join the Health Warrior team and make true changes in the natural foods sector.

Education: BA, University of Pennsylvania

Joel Henry, Founder and General Manager of Fig Food Company, LLC, has more than 23 years in the Food and Beverage industry, most recently running Diageo NA’s luxury division. Prior to that, Joel helped lead the Campbell Soup Company‘s turnaround in both senior operating and strategic roles. Before Campbell, Joel spent 10 years at Kraft Foods Group andWarner-Lambert in brand management and strategy leadership positions.

Education: AB, Cornell University; MBA Duke University

Michael Schwarz is the owner and founder of the Gardener Cheese Company, the producer ofTreeline Treenut Cheese. He started the company after a 20-year career as an intellectual property lawyer in New York, London, and Washington, DC. His work and play took him to France and Italy where he acquired a taste for fine artisanal cheeses. Through Treeline, he has made a commitment to creating and bringing to market high quality, artisanal vegan cheeses which would rival the best dairy cheeses of France and Italy.

The company is located in Kingston, NY which is in New York’s Hudson Valley. Its cheeses are distributed nationwide. Michael splits his time between his homes in the Catskills and New York’s East Village.

Michael is also the co-founder of Erskine Medical, a medical technology licensing company, andThe Tellus Educational Foundation which provides scholarships to African students for advanced studies in public health and environmental sciences.

Education: BS, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg; JD, University of Houston

Session Title: Current Topics in Vegan Finance, Microfinance, and Investment Funds

Description: Mr. Rasch will give an overview of the variety of initiatives happening in finance that are directly or indirectly increasing access to plant-based diets or improving the lives of animals around the world. Due to his extensive experience in the area, the talk will have a focus on the variety of microfinance initiatives and possible business models for combining microfinance and veganism. He will also discuss the overall state of vegan finance and possible models to increase funding for vegan businesses.

Jody Rasch heads the Social Performance Group at Moody’s Corporation working on projects including microfinance and social investing. He also serves on various advisory boards including the Global Impact Investing Rating Service (GIIRS)Women’s World Banking’s Gender Performance Initiative, the SMART Campaign’s Certification Task Force, and Grameen Foundation’s Social Performance Advisory Committee. Prior to this Mr. Rasch worked atMoody’s Risk Management Services as part of the training group heading up product training for derivatives and corporate finance and as project manager for RiskCalc, a corporate risk modeling product. Prior to joining Moody’s in 2002 Mr. Rasch owned, for 15 years, a training company that conducted financial training programs for international commercial and investment banks. He also headed the New York derivatives sales desk of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and has worked in the corporate treasury departments of two Fortune 500 companies.

Mr. Rasch also serves on the boards of the VegFund and Battery Dance Company.

Education: BA, University of Michigan; MBA, New York University

Session Title: The Business of Plant-Based Foods

Description: With consumer demand for vegan foods growing at an astronomical rate, those who care about promoting healthy, sustainable, and ethical eating have a tremendous opportunity to respond to the need. David Benzaquen will share his experiences operatingPlantBased Solutions, LLC, a NY-based brand management and marketing agency providing food manufacturers and food service companies with the support to launch, market and sell their vegan products. David will also provide an overview of the market and share his outlook on the future of the plant-based foods industry and how professionals of all stripes can use their skills to benefit this growing sector.

David Benzaquen is the Founder and CEO of PlantBased Solutions, LLC, a brand management and marketing agency specializing in plant-based foods. David and his firm have represented over 20 of the top vegan food producers in the US and Canada, includingGardeinAlive & RadiantCinnaholicDangEmmy’s OrganicsLove GraceTreeline Cheese, and WayFare, among others. Prior to founding PlantBased Solutions, David spent nearly fifteen years managing advocacy and fundraising campaigns for a wide range of nonprofit organizations and political campaigns. He is passionate about social entrepreneurship and finding creative business solutions to solve society’s biggest problems.

Education: BS, American University; MS, The New School

Academic Programming

Keynote Lecture: Oppositional Bodies of Knowledge: A Black Feminist Perspective on Race, Gender, and Embodiment in Vegan Politics

Description: Using the analytical lenses of critical whiteness studies and black feminism, this lecture will explore how issues of food, health, and ‘ethical eating’ in American veganism are informed by embodied experiences with race, gender, and legacies of colonialism.

Breeze Harper, PhD is currently a Research Fellow in the Department of Human Ecology at the University of California, Davis. Her research interests are focused on the intersections of black feminisms, race theory, and food politics with particular focus on vegan rhetoric and educational technologies used in the food and wellness sector.

Education: BA, Dartmouth College; MA, Harvard University; PhD, University of California, Davis

Session Title: Combating Common Diseases With Plant-based Nutrition

Description: Dr. Greger has scoured the world’s scholarly literature on clinical nutrition and developed this presentation on the latest in peer-reviewed research. In Dr. Greger’s annual nutrition review at last year’s iV Conference he went through the list of the 15 leading causes of death, exploring the role diet may play in preventing, arresting, and even reversing our top 15 killers. This year Dr. Greger will examine the top dozen reasons people visit doctors to highlight the most compelling research on how a healthy diet can affect some of the most common medical conditions.

Michael Greger, MD (editor of is a founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. He has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in the defense of Oprah Winfrey in the infamous “meat defamation” trial. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at, with new videos and articles uploaded daily.

Education: AB, Cornell University; MD, Tufts University 

Session Title: The Global Diet & Sustainability: Multi-country Perspectives

Description: In the U.S. over the past several decades there has been a growing body of literature on the impacts of animal agriculture, shedding light on labor conditions, animal welfare, and the strain on environmental resources. This model of intensively raising animals has been expanding worldwide. Along with urbanization and rising incomes, an appetite for animal products continues to grow globally, and the industrialized system of animal production is being implemented to meet this demand. This presentation will discuss Brighter Green’s research on the intensification of animal agriculture in Brazil, China, India, and Ethiopia and the impacts on climate change, food security, ecological sustainability, equity, animal welfare, and public health. Mia and Sangamithra will also discuss her first-hand research and reporting on this subject in India. What does this system look like on the ground, who is driving it, and at what cost? Where are there opportunities in policy development and academic scholarship to understand and address these social, environmental, and ethical concerns? How can we forge another way forward?

Co-Presenters: Mia MacDonald (left) and Sangamithra Iyer (right)

Mia MacDonald is the Executive Director of Brighter Green, a public policy action tank that works to raise awareness of and policy action on issues that span the environment, animals, and sustainability. A public policy analyst and writer, Mia has worked as a consultant to a range of international non-governmental organizations—including the Ford Foundation, the World Wildlife Fund, the Green Belt Movement, the Sierra Club, and Save the Children as well as several United Nations agencies, among others—on issues of environment, gender, sustainable development, women’s rights and gender equality, reproductive health and population, and conservation and animal protection. She has published many articles in popular and environmental media, authored a number of policy papers and reports, and has contributed to four books, including Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai’s best-selling autobiography,Unbowed. She is a Senior Fellow of the Worldwatch Institute and has taught in the human rights program at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and the environmental studies program at New York University. She serves as a director on the board of Farm Sanctuary and chairs the board of the Green Belt Movement International – North America.

Education: BA, Columbia University; MPP, Harvard University

Sangamithra Iyer is a writer and a licensed professional civil engineer. She served as the Assistant Editor of Satya magazine and is an Associate of the environmental action tankBrighter Green, where she has been writing about climate change and the globalization of factory farming. She is the co-author of two Brighter Green policy papers: Skillful Means: The Challenges of China’s Encounter with Factory Farming and Veg or Non-Veg? India at the Crossroads. Her writing explores issues related to animals, social and environmental justice, and the intersection of the personal and the political. Her work has appeared in n+1Hippocampus MagazineSatyaOpen City, and at Our Hen House. Her essays have been anthologized inSister Species: Women, Animals and Social Justice (University of Illinois Press) and Primate People: Saving Nonhuman Primates through Education, Advocacy and Sanctuary (University of Utah Press). Her latest longform nonfiction story on ethical boundaries The Lines We Drawwas published by Hen Press.

Education: BE, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art; MS, University of California, Berkeley; MFA, Hunter College

Session Title: The Climate of Animal Farming: A Critical Evaluation of Pollution from Agriculture

Description: In his talk, Matt will discuss the environmental dangers of animal agriculture. The talk will review all manners of impacts, but in particular it will focus on fresh water and climate. In addition to reviewing the present-day science, he will discuss some of the challenges of quantifying pollution from animal agriculture. He will describe how modern research, including efforts from colleagues in his own research group, can reduce uncertainty in these pollution assessments. After the talk, we will then open the floor to discuss how, moving forward, further research can sharpen our understanding of the environmental impacts of animal-heavy versus vegan diets.

Matthew Hayek is a PhD candidate in Environmental Science at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University. He works with Professor Steven Wofsy on measuring greenhouse and reactive trace gases in the Brazilian Amazon. In addition to his graduate research, he has been vegan for over nine years and is drawn to the science of our food system and its environmental impacts.

Education: BA, Wesleyan University; PhD (ongoing), Harvard University

Session Title: How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain

Description: The powerful bond between humans and dogs is one that’s uniquely cherished. Loyal, obedient, and affectionate, they are truly “man’s best friend.” But do dogs love us the way we love them? Gregory Berns had spent decades using MRI imaging technology to study how the human brain works, but a different question still nagged at him: What is my dog thinking? Berns decided that there was only one way to answer that question—use an MRI machine to scan the dog’s brain. Berns and his dog embarked on a remarkable journey to glimpse the inner workings of the canine brain. Painstakingly, the two worked together to overcome the many technical, legal, and behavioral hurdles. Berns’s research offers surprising results on how dogs empathize with human emotions, how they love us, and why dogs and humans share one of the most remarkable friendships in the animal kingdom.

Gregory Berns, MD, PhD is a Distinguished Professor of Neuroeconomics and Director of the Center for Neuropolicy at Emory University. In addition to recently publishing his new book How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brainan opinion piece of his was featured in the New York Times in late 2013 on the same topic of consciousness and personhood in dogs based on his groundbreaking MRI studies of canine brains. Dr. Berns specializes in the use of brain imaging technologies to understand human – and now, canine – motivation and decision-making. He has received numerous grants from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and the Department of Defense and has published over 60 peer-reviewed original research articles. For the last 2 years, Berns has pursued his dream of using fMRI to decode what dogs really think. Partnering with a dog trainer, Berns’ group has trained a team of volunteer dogs to hold still in the MRI. The data they are collecting is revealing startling insights about how the brains of canines work.

Education: AB, Princeton University; PhD, University of California, Davis; MD, University of California, San Diego

Panel Title: Legal Implications of Human-Like Consciousness in Animals: Responses to Advances in Animal Neuroscience

Description: In 2012 at the University of Cambridge, a group of renowned neuroscientists authored the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness to assert that the “convergent evidence indicates that … all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, possess [the] neurological substrates” for consciousness and intentional behavior. In late 2013, Professor Gregory Berns’s New York Times opinion piece outlined the revolutionary work with trained, awake dogs in MRIs that led Dr. Berns to his conclusion that “dogs, and probably many other animals … seem to have emotions just like us.” Based on these and other similar studies regarding consciousness in mammals, birds, and fish, the legal community is led to reevaluate animals’ most fundamental legal classifications. This panel will delve into questions of legal personhood status and the potential dissolution of property classification for a wide variety of species that new research suggests demonstrate human-like consciousness. The panel will also discuss whether human-like cognition is a necessary condition for moral concern and the limits of the law as a tool for promoting animal interests.

Panelists: Prof. Gregory Berns [see bio in previous session description] (bottom), Prof. Sherry Colb (top left), and Prof. Michael Dorf (top right)

Sherry F. Colb is Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell Law School. She has clerked for Judge Wilfred Feinberg of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and Justice Harry A. Blackmun of the U.S. Supreme Court. Prior to joining the Cornell Law faculty, she has served on the faculties of Rutgers Law School in Camden and Rutgers Law School in Newark. She has written numerous law review articles and two books, the latest of which, published by Lantern Books, is Mind If I Order the Cheeseburger? And Other Questions People Ask Vegans (2013).

Education: AB, Columbia University; JD, Harvard University

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University. He has written over seventy law review articles and essays on constitutional law and related subjects. Dorf is the co-author (with Laurence Tribe) of On Reading the Constitution (Harvard University Press, 1991), the co-author (with Trevor Morrison) of The Oxford Introductions to U.S. Law: Constitutional Law (Oxford University Press, 2010), the editor of Constitutional Law Stories (Foundation Press 2004, second edition 2009), and the author of No Litmus Test: Law Versus Politics in the 21st Century (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006). He served as a law clerk for Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and then for Justice Anthony M. Kennedy of the Supreme Court of the United States, and has represented clients on a paid and pro bono basis, including as the co-author of several amicus curiae briefs on behalf of the Association of American Law Schools in the Supreme Court. Before joining the Cornell faculty, Dorf taught at Rutgers-Camden Law School for three years and at Columbia Law School for thirteen years.

Education: AB, JD, Harvard University

Panel Title: Anima and Animus: A Religious Dialogue on Soul, Sentience, and Spirituality for Animals in the Great Traditions

Description: The history of the word, concept, and use of animal is complex and has been a function of competing notions of consciousness and free will in non-human, usually mammalian, creatures. However, as our understanding of animal behavior continues to evolve, so does our understanding of animals’ place in the spiritual realm. This panel will explore the perspectives of community leaders across the great traditions, how notions of animals have changed throughout the ages, and the extent to which there is growing divergence or consensus amongst the modern faithful on the topic of animals.

Panelists: Rabbi Julie Roth (bottom), Vineet Chander (top right), and Matt Weiner (top left)

Rabbi Julie Roth is the Executive Director of the Princeton Center for Jewish Life, Hillel at Princeton University. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Rabbi Julie has lived in New York City, Boston, and Washington where she worked for Hillel on the local and international levels. Rabbi Julie was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2005 is a recipient of theWexner Graduate Fellowship. Her passion for pluralism, Jewish life, and multi-culturalism make campus work an ideal match.

Education: BA, Brown University

Vineet Chander is a member of the Board of Directors of The Bhakti Center and serves as the center’s coordinator for communications. Vineet is the Coordinator for Hindu Life at Princeton University, a Religious Life Leader at The Lawrenceville School, and Adjunct Professor atFairleigh Dickinson University. An attorney and communications consultant, he previously served as the North American Communications Director for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). His areas of specialty include the contemporary Bhakti movement, models of pastoral counseling, and the ongoing development of the Hindu-American diaspora community. His writing has appeared in publications ranging from theJournal of Vaishnava Studies to the George Washington University International Law Review, and he has also served as a regular contributor to and the Huffington Post. Vineet is an initiated student of His Holiness Radhanath Swami and is an ordained priest in the Vaishnava Hindu tradition.

Education: BA, St. John’s University; JD, George Washington University

Matt Weiner, PhD served for ten years as Program Director for the Interfaith Center of New York where he developed a methodology for engaging religiously diverse communities through civil society, working with over 500 grassroots religious leaders and the New York State Court System, the New York Public Library, Catholic Charities, the New York Board of Rabbis, and the United Nations. He writes about public religion, interfaith and civil society, and engaged Buddhism.

Education: BA, New York University; MTS, Harvard University; PhD, Union Theological Seminary