Test-tube hamburger is on its way

The world’s first test-tube hamburger, created in a Dutch laboratory by growing muscle fibres from bovine stem cells, will be ready to grill in October.

“I am planning to ask Heston Blumenthal [the celebrity chef] to cook it,” Mark Post, leader of the artificial meat project at Maastricht University, said at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Vancouver.

The story is here.  Both Alex and I have blogged about comparable (but less successful) projects in the past.  Here is a longer article on the same development.


I suspect the first model will require *lots* of ketchup. And pickles, and onions, and a nice strong cheese (Stilton I say).

Still I am in favour of it. I only started eating meat because you can't get good processed soya protein in England.

Lentils are not good enough?

Not as much ketchup as this:

Japanese Scientist Synthesizes Meat from Human Feces

How can anyone thing there is a great stagnation?

Good news for ethical vegetarians?

Yes. It allows them to do a "have your cake and eat it too" type of situation, where they can enjoy meat without harming any animals.

A Petaburger?

It seems rather unfair to eat a person in burger form just because they're a PETA member, but, then again, I do like my meat...

Peta's actually offering a 1 million usd prize to anyone who would bring to the market "an in vitro chicken-meat product that has a taste and texture indistinguishable from real chicken flesh to non-meat-eaters and meat-eaters alike" (http://www.peta.org/features/In-Vitro-Meat-Contest.aspx). I think the logic is mass-produced chicken is one of the most cruel meats available so a clear priority.

How would non-meat-eaters be able to distinguish from real chicken? That's like asking a Mormon to judge a whiskey substitute.

It's a fairly easy task given that many vegetarians are non born so and taste memories are very long-lasting. But I didn't see the glitch until you pointed it out. Hmm... The prize is basically for being tastier than soy chicken. Definitely not as interesting conceptually as I thought it was.

I'm all for this, and I'd love to try some of this lab-produced meat when it comes out.

I understand they use *bovinae* stem cells.
How does the demand for artificial meat change if *human* stem cells are used instead?

Hell! I'd pay for that!!

There is no Great Stagnation.

It tastes like... despair

thank god for homone-free pesticide-free 100% organic free-range venison in my back yard, the way meat is supposed to taste. industrial agriculture sure feeds a lot of people but produces a lot of YUK.

I'd pass on that.

That still sounds tastier than the "wheat meat" I saw on the Discovery Channel not too long ago ...

This sort of thing would be important if you want to eat anything other than hydroponic rabbit-food in space or on Mars, unless you can do some hard-core genetic engineering or planetary engineering to get some decent ranches going, after sending a ship-full of cows there. (I think I saw that episode on Firefly...)

What are the ethical implications of eating aliens? On the moral ladder does a Martin lie below or above a cow?

I came here for this. The infrastructure for livestock is cheap and plentiful on Earth, while it will need to be created on Mars. Even if it's only 90% as good as "real meat," it will be very popular up there.

What color of Soylent is this?

Someone once said that veggie burgers contain two ingredients: soy and hate.

? Please explain as I fail to see the logic. Veggie burger eaters here in Asia are the biggest loving bunch around.

"I fail to see"

Yes, you do. Open your eyes. Pay attention.

At least in India / Pakistan / Middle East there's no soy in a veggie burger. I suspect it is the soy especially that correlates well with the meat-hate.

Yuck Soy!

Writing from *South-East* Asia, soy country if there ever was one. Still don't get it. Vegetarianism is not about meat *hate*. Grow up fellows!

What's the price? I'd expect that hamburger to cost more than a whole cow. And that price won't drop very much in foreseeable future. Growing meat in vitro requires sterility. Making things sterile without heating them is expensive.

According to the BBC article I read, £220,000, though the researchers claim that the cost will fall rapidly as techniques are refined.

This is really nice information. I'm looking for something similar like this. Thanks for this useful information.

We need a "report spam" button.

I'm sure this will work eventually and once they figure out how to scale the process it will probably even be price competitive.
Still, the big problem with any kind of artificial food is that we still don't have a very good grasp of what the most important components of the real thing even are.
Take infant formula for example: Sure, the macro nutrients are roughly comparable to mother's milk, but as long as the mother is healthy formula is still vastly inferior to the tried and true method of old.
For the fat profile of meat, it makes a huge difference whether the animal was fed corn or, say, pasture. and so on.
Given the obesity and diabetes epidemic our track record in figuring out the 'food-part' in industrial food production is far from stellar. So, my biggest concern is that they start mass producing something that looks and taste like meat, and a few decades and weird modern diseases later figure out it wasn't food they produced after all. Margerine comes to mind for example...

It will be developed. Then marketed very cheaply. Then after regular ranching has been driven out of business, the price will be cranked up!

I'm thinking more in the line of regulatory intervention for or most probably against (due to lobbying of a large industry vs. a budding sector). Your scenario doesn't take into account low entry costs. If prices crank up, the once-obsolete alternative would easily be provided again. Maybe cranking up the price after having the huge agrifood subsidies on ranches eliminated...

Test tube meat will only work if the price is lower than "real" meat. If the price of real meat is lower than test tube meat, there will be an incentive to pass off the real meat as ethical meat, and the consumer who would choose ethical meat, considering the high probability that they are being served real meat, will elect to eat no meat at all.

Wouldn't this argument predict that organic produce should never take off so long as it is more expensive than the non-organic stuff?

I don't think so. The ethical decision not to eat meat is much more absolute than the ethical decision to eat only organic produce.

Sentences to ponder:

If half of the meat people eat was “cultured”, greenhouse gas emissions would drop sharply (about one-fifth of global emissions from human sources come from meat production). About half the land that has been converted to grain-growing in the past century could be returned to natural forest cover. The famines and wars that would come with global food shortages could be postponed for decades, and even the warming itself might be stopped.


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