Cattle. (CC/Alex Proimos)
Dutch scientists at Maastricht University in the Netherlands announced last year that they had successfully grown strips of muscle tissue from stem cells. Now, 20,000 strips of that muscle tissue has been assembled into a $325,000 hamburger.
The so-called in-Vitro meat, or cultured meat, will be cooked and eaten at an event in London, possibly in the next few weeks. Dr. Mark Post, conducted some informal taste tests and told The New York Times that even without any fat, the tissue “tastes reasonably good.”
Dr. Post and his team developed the cultured meat by using myosatellite stem cells and medical techniques for growing tissues and organs, a field known as tissue engineering. The process still uses fetal calf serum in which to grow the cells, but eventually that will be replaced with a non-animal material.
An anonymous donor paid the beefy price to produce the hamburger. “If it can be done more efficiently, there’s no reason why it can’t be cheaper,” Post said, noting that the first hamburger is a proof of concept.
Full-scale production of cultured meat could significantly reduce water, land and energy use, as well as emissions of methane and other gases, compared with traditional raising and slaughtering of livestock, according to a 2011 study published in Environmental Science and Technology.
That study's author told The Times that other cost-savings come from decreased feed resources. "In cultured meat production it’s much more efficient; only the meat is produced, and not all the other parts."
But even with affordable cultured meat, cattle wouldn't become obsolete. “If we can reduce the global herd a millionfold, then I’m happy,” Post said. “I don’t need to reduce it a billionfold.”