World’s first test-tube burger is created
Lurking in a petri dish in a laboratory in the Netherlands is an unlikely contender for the future of food. The yellow-pink sliver the size of a corn plaster is the state-of-the-art in lab-grown meat, and a milestone on the path to the world's first burger made from stem cells.
Dr Mark Post, head of physiology at Maastricht University, plans to unveil a complete burger – produced at a cost of more than £200,000 – this October. The project, funded by a wealthy, anonymous, individual aims to slash the number of cattle farmed for food, and in doing so reduce one of the major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.
"Meat demand is going to double in the next 40 years and right now we are using 70% of all our agricultural capacity to grow meat through livestock," Post said. "You can easily calculate that we need alternatives. If you don't do anything meat will become a luxury food and be very, very expensive."
Livestock contribute to global warming through unchecked releases of methane, a gas 20 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver, Post said the burger would be a "proof of concept" to demonstrate that "with in-vitro methods, out of stem cells we can make a product that looks like and feels and hopefully tastes like meat".
Post is focusing on making beef burgers from stem cells because cows are among the least efficient animals at converting the food they eat into food for humans. "Cows and pigs have an efficiency rate of about 15%, which is pretty inefficient. Chickens are more efficient and fish even more," Post said. "If we can raise the efficiency from 15% to 50% it would be a tremendous leap forward."