“Test-tube” hamburgers may soon be an affordable reality as scientists have managed to drastically slash the cost of producing lab-grown meat.
Two years back, test-tube hamburgers made headlines, but for two distinct reasons. While it was certainly a commendable feat creating meat in a laboratory, the burger patty that eventually was served cost $325,000. Though lab-grown meat was a great solution, the $325K burger wasn’t a viable solution to the increasingly unsustainable practice of cattle farming.
However, scientists who have been working on making these test-tube hamburgers an affordable reality have announced a drastic cut in the cost of producing one of these patties. Researchers have managed to bring down the price tag to just a smidgen more than $11 per burger.
In terms of production, scientists have succeeded in creating artificial meat that costs about $80 per kilogram. As an added bonus, the technique requires just a small piece of muscle to produce 10,000 kilos of lab meat. Speaking about the revolutionary breakthrough, Mark Post from Maastricht University in the Netherlands, who has been the part of the team said,
“Cattle are very inefficient animals in converting vegetable proteins into animal proteins. We lose actually a lot of food by giving it to animals as an intermediate. At an environmental scale in methane and other greenhouse gases exhaust, it is also for the environment not a very healthy system. I do think that in 20, 30 years from now, we will have a viable industry producing alternative beef.”
Though he sounded a bit harsh and indifferent to the plight of the cattle, this is certainly a step in the right direction to prevent their indiscriminate slaughter just for food. Lab grown meat that is affordable and easier to manufacture can feed a lot more mouths, without having to rear cattle for the express purpose of slaughtering them for consumption.
The new technique uses myosatellite cells — stem cells that actively repair muscle tissue cells. These cells have been extracted from cows and cultured in a petri dish using a chemical known as “foetal calf serum,” explained Ariel Schwartz,
“The cells are placed onto gel in a plastic dish, where the calf serum’s nutrients are reduced, triggering the cells to go into starvation mode and split into muscle cells. Those cells eventually merge into muscle fibers called myotubes and start synthesizing protein. The end product is a tissue strip”
Resembling a short, pink rice noodle, the lab grown meat seems to satisfy the taste buds. However, many have disagreed in the past and hence this meat may have to undergo significant trials in real-life situations.
Despite the amazing reduction in prices that practically puts the lab-grown meat or test-tube hamburgers on our menus, the scientists are already working on replacing the fetal calf serum with something that doesn’t rely on animal products.
Though scientists have cautioned that there’s still some time before lab grown meat can hit the markets, they have assured they won’t rest until you have an affordable hamburger made from artificial meat that tastes just as good as the real deal.
[Image Credit | Wired, AFP/Maastricht University]