We’ve seen artificial meat in laboratories and one-off multi-thousand dollar dinners, but can this artificially grown meat support a community? Dutch researchers from the Wagenigen University want to conduct a study to answer this very question, to which end they propose to create village-level “meat factories.” Building on the university’s study with test-tube burgers last year, this new project would produce a variety of artificial meats, including beef, pork, and chicken.
The researchers envision the project would revolve around a biotech reactor that can culture meat cells in a metal container. The machine itself measures 20 square meters and extracts stem cells from muscle tissue of cows, pigs, or chickens. These extracted stem cells then sit in a liquid culturing medium to produce edible beef.
While it’s the first time we’ve seen meat artificially grown at such a large scale, there still isn’t enough for everyone’s three square meals a day. The Dutch scientists say their bioreactor will only be able to produce a small amount of cultured beef for a village of 2,650 people each month. In total, the researchers predict their machine will be able to supply 22 pounds of meat per person per year; just barely enough to slightly reduce the need for regular protein sources.
But the biggest obstacle of the project is still the prohibitively high cost of in-vitro meat. The Wagenigen University team accounted that its last lab burger cost $325,000 and now this village-level bioreactor pushes the price to nearly $240 per pound of meat. For now the technology is there, but artificial meat simply can’t keep up with the price or supply of the conventional meat industry.