$330,000 Artificial Hamburger Slated for October

© Mark Post

At the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, a small amount of meat stem cells from a cow have been used to create thin strips of muscle tissue. Currently the strips produced are whitish pink or pinkish yellow in color, are less than an inch long, under half an inch wide and as thin as a credit card.

As Brian reported a few months ago researchers had previously planned to create a sausage from the tissue. They are now looking at producing a hamburger by October.

Professor Mark Post, in charge of the team working on the project, presented his fake meat at an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting in February. He envisions that a small herd of 'donor' animals would contribute stem cells to producing quantities of synthetic meat. Currently, meat production, it has been estimated, is about 15% efficient - in other words, 100 pounds of resources are used to get 15 pounds of meat. Post estimated that in vitro meat would be about 50% efficient, though he didn't give figures on what the water footprint of the in vitro meat would be.

"Technologically, we can make small pieces of muscle and therefore meat," he told Swedish Ekot. "We are rapidly heading toward a meat crisis. Meat consumption is going to double in the next 40 years."

Post's group is hoping to have a hamburger ready by October, at a cost of about 250,000 Euros (approximately $330,000), funded by an anonymous donor. Post said at a news conference in Vancouver that he will ask a British celebrity chef, Heston Blumenthal, to cook it for an as yet unnamed test eater.

In meantime researcher Patrick Brown is taking a different approach. At AAAS he talked about his attempts to use plant residues to create a meat that would be pleasing to “the hardcore meat- and cheese-lovers who can’t imagine giving all this up.”

And at the USDA, researchers like KeShun Liu are proposing that high pressure extruders can use denatured vegetable proteins to make "meat analogs" that emerge from the extruders "as a wet muscle-like product" that have the appearance, taste and "mouth-feel" of a cooked meat. Oh, yum.

Post guesses it will still take more than 10 years for the artificial meat process to be scaled for mass production.

Tags: Farming | Food Safety | Food Security