Dr. Mark Post, of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, has successfully created a 5 ounce hamburger using muscle tissue cultures taken from cows in a slaughterhouse. This “in-vitro” meat required the creation of several billion cells and will be presented at a London event in a few weeks.
Taste-tests reveal the meat to be reasonably palatable. However, the burger was exceedingly expensive to create, costing $350,000. In order to mass produce test-tube burgers, the cost would have to be cut by using something cheaper than fetal calf serum, which supplies the needed stem cells, called myosatellite cells. There is also the issue of controversy – this meat will not be easy to get into supermarkets.
The idea of lab-meat has been around for a while and has many supporters, including environmentalists and those in favor of animal welfare. There is also talk of the meat helping to end hunger in impoverished nations where meat is hard to come by.
The way livestock is currently grown on farms has proved environmentally unsound due to the production of large quantities of methane (a greenhouse gas) and the significant need for energy and water resources. The meat engineered by Dr. Post will use less energy, land, and water, as well as produce lower levels of greenhouse gases. The beef also may be healthier, as it is produced without fat.
With the potential to change the world, I say, why not?