If you are going to spend thousands of dollars on a burger made not out of meat but of bovine stem cells, you've got to have a huge passion for science and innovation. You've also got to have a lot of money. The 39-year-old co-founder of Google fits the bill on both counts
Sergey Brin, the founder of the search-engine giant who oversees the company's investments in future products, has bankrolled the first test-tube burger, which cost 250,000 euros (about $331,450) to create in a lab in the Netherlands. According to a Cultured Beef spokesperson, the total project, which will go beyond this first burger and includes other expenses, cost close to 750,000 euros (about $994,200), "much of which was provided by Sergey Brin."
Headed up by a team at Maastricht University, the Cultured Beef project's purpose wasn't only to create the first burger in a lab but to pose a solution to the problem of potential meat shortages. Mark Post, who has headed the project, told ABC News last week that current livestock meat production was not sustainable, and that means meat will become a luxury if nothing is done.
Brin expresses the same thoughts in a video released today from the Cultured Beef team. "There are basically three things that can happen going forward. One is we will all become vegetarian -- I don't think that is really likely," Brin says in the video. " The second is we ignore the issues, and that leads to continued environmental harm. And the third option is we do something new."
After five years in production and testing, that something new -- a burger made out of billions of lab-grown cells -- was cooked and eaten today in front of a large crowd in London. You can watch the video here, but a researcher who tasted the burger described it as "soft" with "some intense taste" but said it wasn't "juicy" and that she missed the salt and pepper.
Not exactly a rave review for such an expensive piece of meat, but there is still a lot of work to be done. According to Cultured Beef, it will be 10 to 20 years before this burger is ready for mass consumption. Still, Brin says in the video, while "it's really just a proof of concept right now, from there I am optimistic we can scale by leaps and bounds."
The burger investment is just another one of Brin's moves to push the world into the future. The Google co-founder, whose net worth is estimated at more than $22.8 billion, has been leading the development of the Google Glass, the connected glasses that overlay information in the digital world. He has also invested $5 million in Space Adventures, the Virginia-based company that's arranged flights on Russian Soyuz spacecraft for five wealthy private space travelers.
"Some people think this is science fiction -- it is not real, it's somewhere out there," Brin says in the video describing the burger. "I actually think that is a good thing. If what you are doing is not seen by some people as science fiction it is probably not transformative enough."