The billionaire co-founder of Google, Sergey Brin, said he invested €250,000 in synthetic beef technology for animal welfare reasons.
Sergey Brin bankrolled the production of the world’s first lab-grown hamburger. The internet entrepreneur has backed the project to the tune of €250,000 (£215,000), allowing scientists to grow enough meat in the lab to create a burger – as a proof of concept – that will be cooked and eaten in London on Monday.
The synthetic meat hamburger will be cooked and eaten at an event this afternoon. Among the tasters will be the Chicago-based author of Taste of Tomorrow, Josh Schonwald, and an Austrian food trends researcher, Hanni Rützler of the Future Food Studio.
Brin’s money was used by a team led by physiologist Dr Mark Post at Maastricht University to grow 20,000 muscle fibres from cow stem cells over the course of three months. These fibres were extracted from individual culture wells and then painstakingly pressed together to form the hamburger that will be eaten in London on Monday. The objective is to create meat that is biologically identical to beef but grown in a lab rather than in a field as part of a cow.
“Cows are very inefficient, they require 100g of vegetable protein to produce only 15g of edible animal protein,” Dr Post told the Guardian before the event. “So we need to feed the cows a lot so that we can feed ourselves. We lose a lot of food that way. [With cultured meat] we can make it more efficient because we have all the variables under control. We don’t need to kill the cow and it doesn’t [produce] any methane.”
If successful, lab-grown meat could become a viable way to tackle the increasing environmental impact of meat consumption around the world. Around 30% of the Earth’s useable surface is already covered by pasture land for animals, compared with just 4% of the surface used directly to feed humans. The total biomass of our livestock is almost double that of the people on the planet and accounts for 5% of carbon dioxide emissions and 40% of methane emissions – a much more potent greenhouse gas.
Early indications suggest that cultured meat could reduce the need for land and water by as much as 90% and overall energy use by up to 70%.