Fresh from the lab: The stem cell burger

While many fast food offerings may look like they belong in a petri dish, what about a burger that’s actually been grown in one? In a bid to develop a sustainable alternative to animal rearing, scientists in the Netherlands have grown small pieces of beef muscle in a laboratory, to which they hope to add blood and artificially grown fat to produce a fully functioning hamburger by the autumn.

Professor Mark Post, who is leading the research, estimates that the cost of producing the hamburger will be around $300,000, but insists that ‘once the principle has been demonstrated, production techniques will be improved and costs will come down.’ The ‘meat’ as its stands is only about 3cm long, pinkish-yellow in appearance and (unsurprisingly) has not been tasted by any of the scientists just yet. While the stem cells used were taken from foetal calf serum (hungry?), scientists say that they could, in future, be taken from a live animal through biopsy.

‘Meat demand is going to double in the next 40 years and right now we are using 70% of all our agricultural capacity to grow meat through livestock,’ Post told The Guardian. ‘You can easily calculate that we need alternatives. If you don’t do anything meat will become a luxury food and be very, very expensive.’ Obviously, the environmental implications are huge, and let’s be honest- the contents of the franken-burger are actually likely to be less frightening than your average Big Mac. But what do you think? 

Is lab-meat the stuff of sci-fi or worth a try? Let us know below.                                                         

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