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Scientists working on lab-grown, $300,000 hamburger

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Researchers in the Netherlands have successfully grown a small piece of muscle in a lab, the first step to fully synthetic meat.

hamburger - shutterstock
hamburger - shutterstock

Scientists have long agreed that farming methods for breeding animals has not been able to keep up with the demand for meat, and that our current path is likely unsustainable. What this means is that sooner or later, there simply won't be enough meat to fill demand, and also, that the environmental toll on raising so many animals will place strain on the Earth in other ways.

Of course, one solution would be to eat less meat, but the more obvious one, apparently, is to produce in vitro, or lab grown meat (meaning that it was never part of a living animal). Various scientists have been working on this project for a while now, but one researcher, at Maastricht University in the Netherlands has managed to produce a 2-centimeter by 1.5-centimeter piece of muscle in a lab, bringing new hope to the project. The strip is produced by extracting stem cells from a cow, which are then grown in a container of fetal calf serum. The resulting strip of muscle will be mixed with blood and artificially grown fat to produce a hamburger, the group believes, by this fall. The total cost of the hamburger (once you factor in the bun, lettuce, and condiments), will be over £200,000 about $317,000). The project represents a fairly significant step in modern food generation, which is weighed down by expense, demand, shipping, and environmental concerns. The researchers say that, once they've proven lab-grown meat is a viable enterprise, costs will come down. For now, though, Professor Post (the leader of the group), says that the expensive meat will be quite bland tasting at first, but that will also improve as more is produced.

For now, synthetic meat isn't anywhere near commercial viability, and the prospect isn't without critics. David Steele, President of EarthSave Canada, told the BBC that if people simple ate less meat, replacing the deficit in their diets with plant-based foods, the environmental and supply demand needs would be the same as with producing synthetic meats. Steele also raised concerns about the level of antibiotics such meats would require to keep from rotting.