Scientists predict that the first test-tube hamburger will be produced this October. Dr Mark Post, the head of physiology at Maastricht University, has been at work to develop an efficient method to grow skeletal muscle tissue from cows’ stem cells. Currently he and his team have been able to grow small, thin sheets cow muscle that are 3cm long, 1.5cm wide and half a millimeter thick. 3,000 pieces of muscle and a few hundred pieces of fatty tissue are needed to make a burger.
Speaking at a symposium by the name of “The Next Agricultural Revolution” at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver, Post gave some compelling reasons for why we need to produce test-tube meat:
- to meet a growing demand for meat around the world (meat demand will double in the next 40 years);
- to lessen greenhouse gas emissions (methane released from livestock is contributing to global warming);
- to preserve pasture lands, the majority of which are already in use.
A 2010 a report by the United Nations Environment Program has called for a global vegetarian diet.
An anonymous private investor is funding Post’s efforts. In conversation with the Dutch Society of Vegetarians, Post says that the group’s chair has “estimated half its members would start to eat meat if he could guarantee that it cost fewer animal lives.”
Another scientist, Patrick Brown of the Stanford University School of Medicine, is also devoting himself to making a product to mimic meat, thanks to funding from a venture capital firm. Concerned that developing meat in the laboratory from animal sources will still come with numerous disadvantages, Brown is seeking to create a meat-like produce from only animal sources.
Post is hopeful that Heston Blumenthal, the chef and owner of the three Michelin-starred Fat Duck restaurant in Berkshire in the UK, will cook his test tube meat. Not too surprisingly, no one in the meat industry has shown interest in Post’s or Brown’s endeavors.
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