Brit Liggett

Lab Grown, $345,000 Petri Dish Hamburger is Coming to a Table Near You

by , 11/14/11
filed under: News, Sustainable Food

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With the lofty goal of assisting the meat production industry in reducing its hefty emissions levels, Mark Post of the Netherlands is on a quest to create a lab-grown hamburger. Yes, a lab-grown hamburger. Gulp. The world’s appetite for meat is hurdling upwards towards an estimated annual consumption of 376 million tonnes in 2030 and the emissions from that industry are climbing higher every day. Finding a sustainable alternative to feeding the flesh hungry human race — or figuring out a way to get them all to eat garbanzo beans instead — is becoming more and more necessary. Post thinks he’s got the answer and though he believes he’ll create the world’s first artificial burger this year, there are still a few issues. The flesh he’s made doesn’t have any blood in it (so it looks like a fleshy scallop instead of a Big Mac) and it’s going to come with the hefty price tag of $345,000.

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Studies show that lab-made meat could reduce emissions from the current meat production industry by as much as 96%. Post wants to see that reduction met and concedes that there might be better, or less costly ways of doing it. “Of course you could do it by being vegetarian or eating less meat,” he told Reuters. “But the trends don’t seem to be going that way. With cultured meat we can be more conservative — people can still eat meat, but without causing so much damage.”

Post and his team created the meat using stem cells from discarded animal parts at livestock processing facilities. They have created strips of fleshy muscle that are about one inch long and thin enough that you can almost see through them. Just like in animals and humans, muscle needs to be worked in order to prosper, so his lab stretches the segments across two pieces of velcro to give them some resistance to work against. Post will layer thousands of these faux muscle pieces on top of each other, add a few pieces of fat he’s grown in a separate dish and voilá - low-emissions hamburger. Well, not quite the hamburger you are used to.

It’s not very tasty yet,” Post told Reuters of his lab-grown concoction. “That’s not a trivial thing and it needs to be worked on.” In the further research on taste, Post and his teammates will be looking for ways to make the meat healthier as well. “The idea is that since we are now producing it in the lab, we can play with all these variables and we can eventually hopefully turn it in a way that produces healthier meat,” he said. The cost of the burger comes from the very time-intensive process of putting the first prototype together. Post says that with time and a streamlined production process the cost of these artificial burgers could come down significantly and with the addition of a little lab-grown blood they could actually become appetizing — or not.

Via Wired UK

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3 Comments

  1. sammael December 3, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    thats right caeman!
    Why do we need knives when nature gave us damned good teeth to tear our food! We also don’t need farming or high yield crops, when nature gave us all the roots and berries we could ever want.
    I mean do we REALLY need high yield engieneered wheat and corn when 18th century breeds could EASILY keep over 60% of us alive.
    Do we need selectivly bred cow species, when old breeds could give us nearly 40% milk production and nearly 70% the meat.
    @caeman, we improve upon nature for our food constantly. We always have. If we can make this kind of meat chaep, and lower the emissions and land usage to do it, damn right we can improve on nature.

  2. caeman November 15, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    The hubris of humanity, trying to “improve” upon what nature has already perfected.

  3. rbrine01 November 14, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    It’s a good idea for ethical, environmental, and health reasons. Keep up the good work.

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