First test-tube hamburger ready this fall: researchers

Feb 20, 2012 by Deborah Jones
The world's first "test-tube" meat, a hamburger made from a cow's stem cells, will be produced this fall, Dutch scientist Mark Post told a major science conference on Sunday.

The world's first "test-tube" meat, a hamburger made from a cow's stem cells, will be produced this fall, Dutch scientist Mark Post told a major science conference on Sunday.

Post's aim is to invent an efficient way to produce in a laboratory that exactly mimics , and eventually replace the entire meat-animal industry.

The ingredients for his first burger are "still in a laboratory phase," he said, but by fall "we have committed ourselves to make a couple of thousand of small tissues, and then assemble them into a hamburger."

Post, chair of physiology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, said his project is funded with 250,000 euros from an anonymous private investor motivated by "care for the environment, food for the world, and interest in life-transforming technologies."

Post spoke at a symposium titled "The Next " at the annual meeting of the in Vancouver.

Speakers said they aim to develop such "meat" products for mass consumption to reduce the environmental and health costs of conventional food production.

Conventional meat and dairy production requires more land, water, plants and disposal of waste products than almost all other human foods, they said.

The global demand for meat is expected to rise by 60 percent by 2050, said American scientist Nicholas Genovese, who organized the symposium.

"But the majority of earth's pasture lands are already in use," he said, so conventional can only meet the booming demand by further expansion into nature.

The result would be lost biodiversity, more greenhouse and other gases, and an increase in disease, he said.

In 2010 a report by the United Nations Environment Program called for a global vegetarian diet.

" is by far the biggest ongoing global catastrophe," Patrick Brown of the Stanford University School of Medicine told reporters.

"More to the point, it's incredibly ready to topple ... it's inefficient technology that hasn't changed fundamentally for millennia," he said.

"There's been a blind spot in the science and technology community (of livestock production) as an easy target."

Brown, who said he is funded by an American venture capital firm and has two start-ups in California, said he will devote the rest of his life to develop products that mimic meat but are made entirely from vegetable sources.

He is working "to develop and commercialize a product that can compete head on with meat and dairy products based on taste and value for the mainstream consumer, for people who are hard-core meat and cheese lovers who can't imagine ever giving that up, but could be persuaded if they had a product with all taste and value."

Brown said developing meat from animal cells in a laboratory will still have a high environmental cost, and so he said he will rely only on plant sources.

Both scientists said no companies in the existing meat industry have expressed interest.

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antialias_physorg
4.3 / 5 (11) Feb 20, 2012
If it really has much less impact on the environment and all the nutrients are in there (and nothing artificial to boost it, keep it in shape, enhance flavor, etc. ) then this is a big thing.

I hope it works. Maybe time to start investing in artificial meat companies.
Ryan1981
4.4 / 5 (9) Feb 20, 2012
Glad this topic has gotten some more attention. I have always felt that in vitro meat would be the future. Glad to see that they are working on it :D
antialias_physorg
4.1 / 5 (10) Feb 20, 2012
Checked around a bit: In this interview
http://www.bbc.co...16972761
Mark Post said that the environmental footprint of producing meat could be reduced by up to 60%. That would truly be an astonishing feat.
Sinister1811
2.8 / 5 (18) Feb 20, 2012
No animals will be getting slaughtered. And it will be able to feed a lot more people as well. They could also do this with other animals that are being hunted to extinction for food.
ccr5Delta32
1 / 5 (1) Feb 20, 2012
Do I still get to call myself a vegetarian or a vegan ?
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Feb 20, 2012
Depends on your definition.

If you simply define a vegan/vegetarian the usual way (i.e. as someone who eats everything except for animals large enough for the unaided eye to see) then you'll probably be fine.

If you're defining it as someone who just eats matter of plant origin - then not so much (as this artificial meat is still derived from animal stem cells).
Musashi
5 / 5 (1) Feb 20, 2012
ccr5Delta32, I suppose not, but it becomes a non-issue, if your concern goes towards animal welfare.
Deathclock
3.4 / 5 (10) Feb 20, 2012
I wonder if any species will go extinct simply because we have no use for them as a source of food anymore... Many animals that we use for food are not even close to their original natural state anymore, and I really wonder how many can survive on their own once we stop farming them. How long do you think a herd of cows would last in the wild before succumbing to predation? Farmers actively protect them from predators now.
Deathclock
2.3 / 5 (6) Feb 20, 2012
This leads to an interesting philosophical question: Is life in captivity better than no life at all? Suppose this technology works perfectly and actually produces superior meat that is cheaper than natural meat, suppose all the farmers go out of business and let their pigs go into the wild... those pigs don't stand a chance. They will either find, mate, and merge into natural wild boars or they will all die.

Is extinction preferable to captivity and hardship? When is non-existence preferable to existence? These are difficult questions.
ppnlppnl
2 / 5 (2) Feb 20, 2012

But this could make cows extinct.
SteveL
5 / 5 (3) Feb 20, 2012
I wonder if any species will go extinct simply because we have no use for them as a source of food anymore... Many animals that we use for food are not even close to their original natural state anymore, and I really wonder how many can survive on their own once we stop farming them. How long do you think a herd of cows would last in the wild before succumbing to predation? Farmers actively protect them from predators now.

Good point. As farm animals such as cattle naturally live close to humans and use the same type of land we prefer there will be an us vs. them issue. They could eventually be relegated to high value fringe markets and existance in zoos or nature preserves.

Having been raised around the cattle and dairy industry "fake meat" might be tough to swallow, but in reality change is the only constant. I got used to skim milk, so we'll see.
shwhjw
1.7 / 5 (6) Feb 20, 2012
But where are all the retards and mental people going to work when they can't fire bolts at cows' heads?
Auxon
4 / 5 (4) Feb 20, 2012

But this could make cows extinct.


Perhaps ... however, there is still the need for milk and other products, like leather. Also, I think there will always be a market for the "real" thing ... the price will go up.
shwhjw
2.7 / 5 (3) Feb 20, 2012
Why a hamburger?

Because they can't mimic the gorgeous taste of a juicy fillet steak. If they can do that in the future with stem cells, kudos to them - but I doubt they'll be able to mimic it with just leaves.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (6) Feb 20, 2012
Because they can't mimic the gorgeous taste of a juicy fillet steak.

The article says that it will probably taste kind of bland. It's just a matter to find the right nutrients in the production process that give it flavor (much like the food you give cows has an effect on the flavor of the meat.)

But first things first. No one expects to create Kobe beef on the first try.

but I doubt they'll be able to mimic it with just leaves

Since they're working from cow stem cells it's really animal tissue. Only the nutrients are vegetable based (as is the case for real cows - so no big change there)
Sinister1811
2.1 / 5 (14) Feb 20, 2012

But this could make cows extinct.


It probably won't replace cattle altogether. If it does, I would be surprised. It does, however, open the door to a new industry.
jalmy
2.6 / 5 (9) Feb 20, 2012
I think the biggest problem is that human population is out of control. We are beyond the point where nature can recouperate from our use. We need to reduce our population globaly. Using less carbon, making less garbage has not and will not keep up with the amounts being used. Global population control is the best short term answer to alot of our current crisis. We have no need to increase our population further as a species. Until we have the tech. to leave this planet and seed others, there is no point.
SteveL
5 / 5 (5) Feb 20, 2012
This leads to an interesting philosophical question: Is life in captivity better than no life at all? Suppose this technology works perfectly and actually produces superior meat that is cheaper than natural meat, suppose all the farmers go out of business and let their pigs go into the wild... those pigs don't stand a chance. They will either find, mate, and merge into natural wild boars or they will all die.

Is extinction preferable to captivity and hardship? When is non-existence preferable to existence? These are difficult questions.
Actually domesticated pigs do extremely well in the wild. Too well if you ask many. They take very little time to turn feral. I seriously doubt most cattle would fare as well.
SteveL
5 / 5 (3) Feb 20, 2012
I think the biggest problem is that human population is out of control.

I agree. We should stop subsidizing population growth with tax deductions. If you want more kiddoes, you pay for them. Don't expect society to subsidize your personal decisions.

We are beyond the point where nature can recouperate from our use.

I don't agree. Nature may not be as comfortable for us as we would prefer in the time span we would prefer for our species or the species we desire to protect. Nature will do its thing on its own time table. Not ours. Over a period of time we may be able to influence nature (climate), but it will take a whole lot more effort and time than we want to reverse things.

Gobal population control is the best short term answer to alot of our current crisis.

Eventually we will all need to strongly consider going to the Chinese model. A good start though would be to stop subsidizing reproduction via tax deductions.
Jeddy_Mctedder
1 / 5 (3) Feb 20, 2012
you think the cow industry and the meet processing and packaging industry is going to allow this to replace them?

i don't think so.

if this artificial meat has a chance to become commercially viable one day, it must first show success as a product in a test market. the only test market i know of that is capable of creating an economy of scale while fighting off the anti-competitive market behavior of the current dominant players in the market is the military.

you need one BIG company with lots of consumers that is capable of placing enough to demand for the test product to give it a good field trial amongst tens of thousands of people . that means they need money, and incentive to try new things to save money , and a captive test audience ( soldiers ) .

if it's not the military, then the only other chance this test product has of doing well is not as meat, but 'meat product' filler ( to mcdonalds ) or as feed stock for cat food and dog food.
MikeSpreafico
not rated yet Feb 20, 2012
This leads to an interesting philosophical question: Is life in captivity better than no life at all? Suppose this technology works perfectly and actually produces superior meat that is cheaper than natural meat, suppose all the farmers go out of business and let their pigs go into the wild... those pigs don't stand a chance. They will either find, mate, and merge into natural wild boars or they will all die.

Is extinction preferable to captivity and hardship? When is non-existence preferable to existence? These are difficult questions.


We turn out domestic pigs often.They have no problems at all,and do breed with the wild boar.Cows,sheep,chickens are all a different story.
SteveL
5 / 5 (3) Feb 20, 2012
Jeddy: My heart agrees with you because having grown up around beef I love a good steak. I can't usually allow myself to afford one, but I do love some good beef. However, my mind cannot agree.

You see a market already exists for this product. Quite a sizable one and a very active one. The PETA and like-minded folks would jump on this as a banner product if it replaces the killing of animals. They would be willing to pay premium prices for this product, just as people pay double for "Organic" products and pay extra for "Green" products. This market is already there and waiting and they care very little about what the beef industry thinks. Once available you could also expect them to pressure businesses to provide this version of meat.
Deathclock
1 / 5 (2) Feb 20, 2012
We turn out domestic pigs often.They have no problems at all,and do breed with the wild boar.Cows,sheep,chickens are all a different story.


That's great I'll take your word for it, the specific animal was not the point, it was just an example.
tpb
5 / 5 (4) Feb 20, 2012
It's not just a matter of growing the protein(muscle fibers), but the fat as well. The next step is to get a texture, this will require exercising the muscle fibers. This will probably mean connecting the fibers to something to pull against(bones). Next you will need to provide an immune system or the "meat" will become diseased.
By the time your done you will have invented a cow.
powerup1
1 / 5 (1) Feb 20, 2012
In the future we will use 3D printers to make the perfect steak. They are researching on how to use these printers to make human organs, I would think that food meat would be simple by comparison.
Deesky
5 / 5 (1) Feb 21, 2012
Why a hamburger?

Because they can't mimic the gorgeous taste of a juicy fillet steak. If they can do that in the future with stem cells, kudos to them

That is actually an accurate observation. Growing a cut of meat that many of us enjoy is vastly more difficult than producing 'mince'. This isn't a new area of research - it's been around for many years now.

The problem, other than taste, is texture, firmness and color. To achieve a realistic chop simulation, the meat needs to have a blood supply, some fatty tissue and strength/resilience which comes from mechanical stresses derived from movement. Otherwise, it's just mush.

If you're going to go to such lengths, you might as well grow the animal from scratch.

So the way I see it, we'll likely have a pretty passable mince substitute in the near future, but not a cut of meat you would get at a butcher. Heh, I can see McDonald's selling them as MacMooggets!
Michael Slee
not rated yet Feb 21, 2012
In the future we will use 3D printers to make the perfect steak. They are researching on how to use these printers to make human organs, I would think that food meat would be simple by comparison.


'Honey, what's for dinner tonight?'
"I don't know, let me look up a recipe."
'Hey, that looks pretty good!'
"Ok, let me just print this up."

I see this 'test-tube' hamburger being treated in a similar way as tofu by the common consumer; probably start out as a fad that will gain a small, but dedicated following, and avoided by most other consumers.