Stem-Cell Technology Cooks Up The Laboratory-Created Burger

The lab-grown burger is closer than you think. Dr. Mark Post, a scientist at Maastricht University, has been working on cultured meat, grown in vitro, and plans to cook and eat it at an event in London later this year.

The meat comes from one particular cell found in the neck of a cow and is then grown in a petri dish filled with fetal calf fluid. The finished product resembles a short pink rice noodle, half an inch long, one twenty-fifth of an inch in diameter. Hence its final status as a burger, rather than a succulent piece of steak.

It's fat-free cultured muscle tissue which, Dr. Post says, tastes "reasonably good." Call it what you want, but most practitioners in the field call it tissue engineering. So far, the research has cost around $325,000. Should the lab burger get the thumbs-up, it could mean a reduction in the planet's cow population. "If we can reduce the global herd a millionfold, then I'm happy," Post says.

It's safe to say that globalization has wreaked havoc on our eating habits (see 2013's horsemeat scandal). So are we surprised that more revolutionary versions of meat—and, indeed, other foodstuffs, such as these artificial eggs—are popping up? And there is the Obvious Corporation-backed vegan meat startup, which aims to be cheaper and healthier than the real thing.

There is, of course, a growing feeling that cutting down one's individual meat consumption is the way to go. By eating less red meat, we can create less greenhouse gas and live more cheaply (the argument being that we will be able to treat ourselves to choicer, more expensive cuts from well-reared animals). Even mega-producer Sodexo has stumped for meat-free Mondays.

But is Dr. Post's creation actually meat? Neil Stephens, a social scientist from Wales's Cardiff University, is unsure. "This is something very new," he says. "People need to wrestle with the idea of whether this is meat or not."

Would you eat a lab-grown meat burger? And what about the ethics of the scheme—not everyone, after all, is that keen on stem-cell technology. Answers in the comments, please.

[Image by Flickr user spysknee]

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