The artificial burger that you–or your science-fiction-loving friends–have been waiting for is real. And now it’s cheap, too.
It wasn’t long ago that test-tube hamburgers–meat made from small pieces of lab-grown animal muscle tissue–were just a glimmer in some mad scientist’s eye. Then, in 2013, the dream of an artificial burger suddenly got interesting. That’s when Mark Post, a researcher at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, announced that he had created a burger made from real meat grown in a lab (20,000 strips of muscle tissue, to be exact) for the unreasonable price of $325,000. Now that price has dropped to just over $11 for a burger ($80 per kilogram of meat), according to a recent ABC News interview with Post.
Here’s how Co.Exist described Post’s experiment back in 2013:
Post’s cultured meat creation process goes something like this: myosatellite cells, a kind of stem cell that repairs muscle tissue, are taken from a cow neck and put in containers along with fetal calf serum (the medium, which will eventually switch to a non-animal source). The cells are placed onto gel in a plastic dish, where the calf serum’s nutrients are reduced, triggering the cells to go into starvation mode and split into muscle cells. Those cells eventually merge into muscle fibers called myotubes and start synthesizing protein. The end product is a tissue strip, described by the New York Times as “something like a short pink rice noodle.”
It hardly sounds appetizing, and, according to those who tried the burger back when it was first announced, it still had a ways to go in the flavor department. But it wasn’t terrible.
While the price of the burger has dropped to almost-reasonable prices, Post told ABC that it will still be another 20 to 30 years before it’s commercially viable. Among the hurdles still left to overcome: figuring out how to produce test-tube meat at scale, and coming up with a way to produce it that doesn’t use fetal calf serum (currently, cells are grown in the serum, which is taken from cow fetus blood).
And, of course, there’s the biggest hurdle of all: convincing people to eat lab-grown meat.