Columbia, Mo.-based ag tech startup Modern Meadow is on a mission: to leverage the latest advancements in tissue engineering to create meat and leather without the need to raise, slaughter and transport animals.
The company, which recently received a $350,000 check from billionaire investor and PayPal founder Peter Thiel after he sold roughly the same amount in Facebook shares, is hoping to use 3D printers to construct an edible meat replacement from cultured cells. Modern Meadow officials are hoping the proprietary tissue engineering technology will change the way agriculture works worldwide.
Modern Meadow, of course, is not the first company to work on such a mission. Its approach is slightly different, however; officials hope that by layering mixtures of cells of different types in a specific structure, in-vitro meat production becomes feasible. In a submission to USDA, the company explains that “the technology has several advantages in comparison to earlier attempts to engineer meat in vitro. The bio-ink particles can be reproducibly prepared with mixtures of cells of different type. Printing ensures consistent shape, while post-printing structure formation and maturation in the bioreactor facilitates conditioning.”
Still, even if they succeed, printing steak won’t be here anytime soon — the company’s short-term goal is to print an edible sliver of meat around two centimeters by one centimeter, and less than half a millimeter thick. The company itself admits it expects difficulties ahead.
“The consumer acceptance of such products may not be without challenges,” the USDA filing reads. “We expect it will first appeal to culinary early-adopter consumers and the segment of the vegetarian community that rejects meat for ethical reasons. With reduction in price, it can reach the masses with religious restrictions on meat consumption (people restricted to Hindu, Kosher, Halal diets) and finally populations with limited access to safe meat production.”