Peter Thiel is cooking up some weird beef.
The famed co-founder of PayPal--he also sits on Facebook's board--who’s known for his wacky investments, has plowed at least $250,000 into Modern Meadow, a startup that seeks to produce 3D bioprinted cuts of meat for human consumption.
That’s right, if doctors can use regenerative technology to create medical-grade implants, why can’t Silicon Valley use it to serve up a slab of USDA-grade sirloin?
CNET pulled the startup’s submission to the Department of Agriculture’s small business grant program. The document is sprinkled with details on the company’s short-term plan to create a sliver of synthetic meat that's less than one inch long. Peter Luger is safe for now.
Thiel's fund is pitching the company as a small step forward in saving the planet. Printed meat is "an economic and compassionate solution to a global problem," Lindy Fishburne, executive director of Breakout Labs, a project of the Thiel Foundation, said in a statement.
In true “I’m-not-doing-this-just-to-get-rich speak,” Modern Meadow co-founder Andras Forgacs told CNET that “if you look at the resource intensity of everything that goes into a hamburger, it is an environmental train wreck.”
According to a recent NPR study, one quarter-pound burger takes 6.7 pounds of grain, 52.8 gallons water, 74.5 square feet of land and 1,036 British Thermal Units of fossil fuel. So thanks America, for withholding energy from an entire city block in South London at your last July 4th barbecue.
Producing meat "in-vitro" is far less damaging. According to this piece in the Guardian, making meat in the lab "results in a 96% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to rearing animals, and uses 45% of the energy, 1% of the land and 4% of the water associated with conventional beef production."
Thiel’s money is specifically coming from an arm of his philanthropic foundation, Breakout Labs, which gives grants to companies that pursue “radical goals” in science and technology. As CNET noted, 3D printing of meat has long been a staple of science fiction, appearing in classics like William Gibson’s 1984 novel Neuromancer.
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