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