Synthetic fibres have made things tougher for our wool industry. Now a threat looms – maybe – from cultured meat.
According to London’s Telegraph (here), the world’s first test tube burger will be cooked and eaten at a live demonstration of “cultured beef” technology in London next month.
The burger is being created from thousands of strands of artificial meat that have been painstakingly grown from stem cells in a laboratory.
Prof Mark Post will explain how he created the test-tube meat at his laboratory at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, before serving the resulting patty to a mystery diner.
He will present the beefburger as a “proof of concept” that laboratory-grown meat could in future become a sustainable alternative to farmed beef, pork or chicken, potentially cutting billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases currently released by livestock.
He is expected to promote the meat, among other things, as suitable for vegetarians because it will dramatically reduce the need to slaughter animals.
But the success or failure of the product, known as “in-vitro meat”, could hinge on the reaction of the diner, yet to be identified.
Until now the only person to have tasted lab-grown meat is a Russian journalist who snatched a sample of cultured pork during a visit to Prof Post’s lab – before it had been passed safe to eat – and declared himself unimpressed.
The Telegraph says the burger will be made up of approximately 3,000 strips of muscle tissue, each measuring about 3cm long by 1.5cm wide.
Each strip is grown from a cow stem cell, which develops into a strip of muscle cells after being cultured in a synthetic broth containing vital nutrients.
The resulting strips begin contracting like real muscle, and are attached to Velcro and repeatedly stretched to keep them supple.
The meat, which will be ground up into a patty with similar strips of fat, may not sound as appealing as a fresh steak but Prof Post said it could satisfy the growing global demand for meat, which is expected to double by 2050.
Speaking at a conference last year, he said he had already produced meat with fibres almost identical to those in real beef, but it had a pinkish-yellow hue which he hoped to turn into a more realistic shade before making his first burger.
“We are going to provide a proof of concept showing out of stem cells we can make a product that looks, feels and hopefully tastes like meat,” he said.
He estimated that the first burger would cost about £220,000 to produce, although the cost could be cut dramatically by industrialising the laborious process.