Will Your Next Hamburger be Grown in a Tube?

Scientists at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting recently took on the challenge of solving the world’s food problems. Dr. Mark Post, professor at Maastricht University, proposed a rather bizarre way to grow meat in the future. The world’s first hamburger developed from cow stem cells is expected to come this fall. The meat will be grown in a test tube. It makes you wonder if Anthony Bourdain would even be brave enough to eat it.

Test Tube Meat
Courtesy Mark Post via AAAS.org

The hamburger is being developed with from an anonymous donor who gave Dr. Post 250,000 Euros to get the job done. Pictured above, you can see a strip of muscle tissue developed from cow stem cells at the lab. It will take many of these strips to produce an actual hamburger.

So why the interest in a new meat substitute. Scientists note the inefficiencies surrounding meat production as it is done today. The environmental impact is also a huge concern. Large meat farming operations produce a lot of green house gases and other environmental issues. There is also a noted risk to humans as there has been a rise of E. Coli outbreaks recently.

Another scientist, Patrick Brown of Stanford University, proposed a meat substitute derived from plant material. Brown sounded very confident that his product could win over the meat and potatoes crowd. This seems to be a more viable alternative as Post’s stem cell approach is a very expensive and time consuming process.

Probably most surprising to me was to hear about the meat industry’s interest in this research. Big names like Tyson Foods have expressed interest in the synthetic meat. It will be interesting to see what the food of the future looks like and how this type of research will change things for us. I have to admit my own skepticism, mostly out of concern for eating synthetic proteins and what unforeseen problems may occur from eating synthetic meat. However, the possibility that we could produce more food with less energy sounds very promising. I think I’ll go get a hamburger now before they become a thing of the past. ;)

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Darrin Jenkins

Darrin is an IT manager for a large electrical contractor in Louisville KY. He is married and has 3 kids. He loves helping people with their technology needs. He runs a blog called Say Geek!