In 2013 the world’s first ‘in-vitro’ or lab-meat burger was given the taste test by food critics in London. Costing $325,000 (€308,000) the burger was deemed almost perfect in texture, though lacking in fat and slightly bland in flavour.
Mark Post, the researcher responsible for its creation in a University laboratory in Maastricht, believes the method can be expanded to an industrial scale, applied to all forms of meat and used to alleviate world hunger and avert climate change.
Speaking in Brussels at TED-x conference, he alluded to Jesus’ transformation of a single fish into five thousand, and said he hoped that in a thousand years stain-glass windows would instead portray the mass cultivation of in-vitro hamburgers.
Post’s method involves extracting stem cells from cattle (a ‘harmless’ procedure) from which a single muscle cell can be ‘cultured’ in a bioreactor; one muscle cell can multiply into a trillion muscle strands.
Human population will grow to 9 billion by 2050, requiring an estimated 10 billion land animals by today’s standards. Currently 75% of arable land globally is used for livestock
The first burger was created in a petri dish but a bioreactor the size of an Olympic swimming pool could feed 40,000 people for a year, he says.
Creating an industrial scale system is now the challenge, and whilst it was announced last year that developments in production had reduced the price of a burger by more than 99% - to around US$11 (€10), Post and others are secretive about details of the technology as it is patented by third party developers.
At the unveiling of the burger in London, Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, was named Post’s lead backer.
However, speaking to FoodNavigator in 2015, Post said that the food industry was not yet giving any serious financial support to lab-meat, and that development was occurring only in a few scattered labs across the world.
Nevertheless, he predicted that within seven years lab meat will be available in supermarkets.