Billionaire PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel is putting his money where his mouth is – by investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in an American company that makes 3D-printed meat. The Thiel Foundation has reportedly agreed to give Missouri-based Modern Meadow between £160,000 to £220,000 to work on their lab-grown steaks, which are an animal-friendly and more sustainable option to slaughtered meat. Considering that Thiel was right on the money when he helped start PayPal, we’re very interested to see if faux meat could be the next big thing.
Modern Meadow hopes to produce a delicious, guilt-free alternative to meat using a 3D bioprinting technique, that works by layering mixtures of different kinds of cells in a specific structure. While it sounds like science fiction, the company has already set a short-term goal to print the first few tiny cuts of the lab-grown meat, which will be about two centimeters by one centimeter and less than half a millimeter thick.
While the breakthrough might be a way for some vegetarians to be able to enjoy meat (if they abstain due to ethical reasons), Modern Meadow co-founder Andras Forgacs also points out the environmental benefits of lab-grown meat as well. “If you look at the resource intensity of everything that goes into a hamburger, it is an environmental train wreck,” he explained. If successful, the 3D-printed steaks would be a way to lessen the harmful byproducts of the cattle industry such as methane gas creation and the use of land resources for grazing.
We think Peter Thiel and Modern Meadow are onto something here but the question remains – would you eat 3D-printed meat? And is lab-grown meat somehow less appetizing that meat taken from the carcass of a cow?