If you thought fast-food restaurant hamburgers were a little plastic tasting when compared to what you grill at home, you may soon be in for a new taste. Forget meat, forget plastic — how about test tubes? Yes, test tube hamburgers may be on the way:
By generating strips of meat from stem cells researchers believe they can create a product that is identical to a real burger.
The process of culturing the artificial meat in the lab is so laborious that the finished product, expected to arrive in eight months’ time, will cost about £220,000 (EUR250,000).
But researchers expect that after producing their first patty they will be able to scale up the process to create affordable artificial meat products.
Mass-producing beef, pork, chicken and lamb in the lab could satisfy the growing global demand for meat – forecast to double within the next 40 years – and dramatically reduce the harm that farming does to the environment.
Last autumn the Telegraph reported that Prof Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands had grown small strips of muscle tissue from a pig’s stem cells, using a serum taken from a horse foetus,
Speaking at the American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Vancouver yesterday afternoon (SUNDAY), Prof Post said his team has successfully replicated the process with cow cells and calf serum, bringing the first artificial burger a step closer.
He said: “In October we are going to provide a proof of concept showing out of stem cells we can make a product that looks, feels and hopefully tastes like meat.”
Although it is possible to extract a limited number of stem cells from cows without killing them, Prof Post said the most efficient way of taking the process forward would still involve slaughter.
He said: “Eventually my vision is that you have a limited herd of donor animals in the world that you keep in stock and that you get your cells form there.”
Each animal would be able to produce about a million times more meat through the lab-based technique than through the traditional method of butchery, he added.
Making a complete burger will require 3,000 strips of muscle tissue, each of which measures about 3cm long by 1.5cm wide, with a thickness of half a millimetre and takes six weeks to produce.
The meat will then be ground up with 200 strips of fat tissue, produced in the same way, to make a hamburger.
The Telegraph piece has more details about the test tube