A hamburger created from bovine stem cells will soon be served in London. The €250,000 (roughly $325,000) burger is the result of years of research led by Dr. Mark Post in the Netherlands, who hopes to show the world that so-called "in-vitro meat" could become a viable food source.
The burger was crafted using cells from the neck of a slaughterhouse cow and techniques developed for the creation of organs. Stem cells have the ability to turn into a multitude of other cells, including the muscle cells needed for the burger meat. Dr. Post's team used tens of billions of muscle cells to create 20,000 thin strips of cultured muscle tissue, which amount to a quarter-pounder. Although his in-vitro burger has no fat, Dr. Post assures The New York Times that it tastes "reasonably good."
Making the meat is only half the challenge
In the future, Dr. Post believes the cost of in-vitro meats will come down significantly, but admits there are major hurdles that will have to be solved by the scientific community before the mass production of meat could start. One hurdle isn't scientific, but cultural: persuading society that meat grown in a lab is safe to eat is a tall order.
Dr. Post's team is just one of many working on in-vitro meat, and others have been using similar techniques to develop cultured leather. Dr. Andras Forgacs, co-founder of Modern Meadow, a startup looking to develop and sell cultured meat, believes in-vitro leather could be the key to gaining public acceptance. "If we can convince the universe that we can build leather," Forgacs tells The New York Times, "it will be much easier to convince the universe that we can build meat."