Are you in the market for a long-term buy-and-hold stock? One that combines – of all things – food and high-tech? Step aside Syngenta, you're old news!
You may have heard of Modern Meadow (though you must have read about the 'Googleburger,' so named because Google's founder Sergey Brin bankrolled it). Modern Meadow is developing the technology that will someday in the distant future provide the meat counterpart of instant coffee: instant beef! For now, it is focusing on synthetic meat made with 3D printers.
Artificial food seems to have a particular attraction for young tech barons, for one of Modern Meadow's main backers is Facebook's Peter Thiel.
Though Modern Meadow is not a publicly traded company, it makes sense to take a look because, according to Entrepreneur.com, it is the "model for the farm of the future," and leather buyers/consumers have already expressed an interest in its prototyped 3D-printed leather products. Though Lux Research gives it a "Wait and See" rating, it also says that this leading-edge company is "a front runner in the field of consumer cell-based materials."
Background of artificial meat
Modern Meadow was founded by Forgacs pere et fils, who already have a somewhat similar venture, Organovo, to their credit. This June Businessweek did a fairly comprehensive story on the company. The BBC has also covered the company with a more scientific and technological approach.
Given the kind of interest Modern Meadow is getting from major media, it makes sense to keep a watch on it now, well before any IPO announcement.
If you think that "nutrient fluid-grown" synthetic beef is a revolting concept that will never take off, you're partly right: It may not take off in our time. But think of frozen meals and TV dinners. You probably had one yesterday, but what would your grandparents have had to say about them? "Can't abide them – revolting!" right? And what about the "pink slime" that was recently found to be a key ingredient in McDonald's burgers? This two-generational change in perception foreshadows how your grandchildren may come to view lab-grown cultured or synthetic meat.
Modern Meadow isn't the only game in town. A few months back, Professor Mark Post in Maastricht cultured and grew beef muscle cells from which that "Googleburger" was made. The Economist did a story on that event of a kind.
A cursory look, including a view from PETA, at the ethical implications of synthetic beef is presented in this report in The Mirror. The rating from this front is a big thumbs up.
The future for artificial meat
Scientists and futurists have long been fretting as to how ever-burgeoning humanity's nutritional needs will be met on a finite (and, perhaps, depleting) planet. "Meat will become a luxury food and will become very expensive," Professor Post said. That Economist story also mentions that the "world's appetite for meat is forecast to rise by 70% by 2050. Nearly a third of the world's ice-free land is already used to raise livestock or grow fodder for these animals."
On which note, Malthusians may ask: "How will the anticipated food shortfall be made up?" One possible (and grossly revolting) solution was tabled in the Sci-Fi classic Soylent Green. Suddenly, 3D-printed beef doesn't sound too bad! Indeed, synthetic meat was foreseen decades back by visionaries like Aldous Huxley in Brave New World and Robert Heinlein in Stranger in a Strange Land.
If you don't think that a company that makes synthetic meat will take off, I don't either – until I start thinking like a PR front-runner looking back at some historical trends...
First, the tip of the wedge is going to be synthetic leather, which will gain acceptance much faster and garner goodwill for the broad base of the wedge – synthetic meat. Second, it will be sent to areas of food crises and famines, engendering the PR-written headlines, "Synthetic Meat Saves Thousands of Starving Children!" Third, synthetic beef jerky will become an essential component in every fresh marine's welcome pack. Somewhere around phase 20 or 21, your grandchildren will be eating it.
Fool contributor Kersasp ('Kersie') Shekhdar has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Procter & Gamble. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.