Cultured beef – muscle meat grown in laboratories using stem cells from cattle – is here, but petri dish patties are still frightfully expensive.
Developed by Dr. Mark Post and his team at Maastrict University in the Netherlands, cultured beef is created by scientists who feed stem cells to help them reproduce muscle meat tissue. To make a hamburger 20,000 strands of the cultured beef are pressed together.
The first burger from Maastrict cost more than €250,000 (US$ 330,000) to produce, but Post expects cultured beef to eventually be cheaper than regular beef (which takes many natural resources including massive amounts of water to produce). Research from the University of Oxford suggests that cultured beef could require 99% less space than what is needed for current livestock farming methods. Research also points to greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts for cultured beef being lower than conventional beef.
The group doesn't think cultured beef will be available on store shelves for at least another decade, however, as mass production techniques need to be developed.
While one stem cell sample from a beef cow can eventually produce up to 20,000 tons of meat, thus far scientists must feed the cells to help them grow, as well as treating the final meat muscle with 'accepted food technology methods' to make it taste like what we expect.
For the first hamburgers, Maastrict's group used cells from organically-raised beef cows – one from a Blanc Blue Belge cow raised at a farm in Belgium, the second was from a Blond Acquitaine cow.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that demand for meat is going to increase by more than two-thirds in the next 40 years, making meat for expensive and a luxury item for many.
So the question is, would you try it? Let us know in our poll here.