Lab meat closer to a reality

Meat grown in a laboratory will become commercially viable in the next decade, the scientist who grew the world’s first stem-cell burger has claimed.

Dutch professor Mark Post said he can now produce burger for less than £10, a vast saving on the first prototype, which was cooked and eaten in London two years ago. It cost £250,000.  

The burger was made by combining stem cells taken from a cow with collagen to create small pieces of muscle. These were then stimulated with electricity to exercise them and then used to make mince. The meat strands were then mixed with lab grown animal fat and flavourings to make the burger.

Professor Post, speaking at an Australian cattle farming event, said he believed technology advances meant there could be a viable industry growing meat in this way within 20 to 30 years, providing genuine competition to beef mince manufacturers. Currently growing anything other than burger mince is not possible because blood flow is required to grow whole muscles.

Other scientists are currently working on growing synthetic chicken. Professor Amit Gefen, a bioengineer at Tel Aviv University, has begun a year-long feasibility study into manufacturing chicken in a lab, funded by a non-profit group called the Modern Agriculture Foundation, which hopes “cultured meat” will one day replace the raising of animals for slaughter.

Lab-grown meat is being touted as an environmentally friendly alternative, as well as a potential solution to the huge growth in demand for protein from rapidly developing countries. According to a study by Oxford University and the University of Amsterdam, cultured meat would produce 96% less greenhouse gas, consume 82 to 96% less water and virtually eliminate land requirements needed to raise livestock.

However, it remains to be seen whether consumers will want to eat meat grown in this way. McDonald’s told MTJ it had ruled out selling lab-grown burgers. “McDonald’s will not be using this product,” said a spokeswoman. “Our customers want us to serve good food made with quality ingredients, and they like us to buy as much as we can from local farmers and suppliers.”

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