As conservationists battle the epidemic of rhino poaching in sub-Saharan Africa, they continue to face challenges because rhino horn remains one of the most sought-after substances in the world. It is more valuable by weight than cocaine or even gold. But a San Francisco-based company believes it may have found a way around the issue by making a synthetic horn that is just like the real thing. And they plan to put it in beer.
Pembient, a company whose tagline is “Bioengineered Wildlife Products,” believe they’ve found a solution, producing an artificial rhino horn from a small amount of rhino DNA that not only is “genetically and spectrographically identical to the real thing” but can also be fabricated to look like a real rhino horn.
Though the biotech company is looking into a lot of uses for the product, it says it’s already partnered with an undisclosed large Beijing brewery to use the fake rhino horn in a beer set to launch later this year. One of the reasons many people prize rhino horn (primarily in Asian countries) is for its use as a hangover cure. Presumably, the thought is that if you insert it into your alcoholic drink, you can nip a hangover in the bud before it even hits.
In market research conducted by Pembient in Vietnam, the company says that 45 percent of those they talked to were into the idea of using lab-produced rhino horns to replace the real thing. The company even claims that its fake rhino horn is purer than real rhino horn because they can control quality in the lab—unlike real rhinos, which are subject to all of our modern environmental problems.
While Pembient thinks their synthetic horn will help protect rhinos, the International Rhino Foundation does not agree. In a statement to Quartz they said, “Selling synthetic horn does not reduce the demand for rhino horn [and] could lead to more poaching because it increases the demand for ‘the real thing.’ In addition, production of synthetic horn encourages its purported medicinal value, even though science does not support any medical benefits.”
Rhino horn beer—it just sounds crazy. Not as crazy as Bud Light Mixxtails, but pretty damn crazy.