With the world facing an ever-increasing population, and a growing demand for meat products, the idea of growing meat in vitro could offer the beginning of a new solution, said Dr Mark Post of Maastricht University.
Post is working on an efficient way to produce skeletal muscle tissue in a laboratory that exactly mimics meat – something he believes could eventually replace the entire meat-animal industry.
Speaking at a symposium titled "The Next Agricultural Revolution" at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Dr Post revealed that the ingredients for his first burger are still “in a laboratory phase." However, the researcher added that the group "have committed ourselves to make a couple of thousand of small tissues, and then assemble them into a hamburger" – something he believes will be achieved within a few months.
The researchers are currently working on producing a burger from around 10,000 stem cells extracted from cattle. The cells are left to multiply by more than a billion times, producing muscle tissue that will then be used to make burgers.
The project is funded with 250,000 euros from an anonymous private investor, who Dr Post revealed is motivated by "care for the environment, food for the world, and interest in life-transforming technologies."
Speaking in a previous interview with FoodNavigator, Dr Post said the ‘proof of principle’ research project could begin a movement to more sustainable meat production.
He said that whilst his team are currently aiming to produce small strands of meat which can then be processed to produce “burgers and sausage type foods,” the long term goals of the project “have to be to grow much larger pieces of meat, such as steaks and chops.”
“Hopefully this will create enough enthusiasm and financial support to upscale and economise the processes, so that we can improve and start to think about a real manufacturing process,” said Post.
FoodNavigator spoke to Dr Mark Post in podcast on this subject earlier in the project. Click here to listen to the interview.
Also speaking at the symposium, Patrick Brown of the Stanford University School of Medicine,USA, commented that "animal farming is by far the biggest ongoing global catastrophe.”
"More to the point, it's incredibly ready to topple,” he warned. “It's inefficient technology that hasn't changed fundamentally for millennia.”
Brown, who revealed that his research is funded by an American venture capital firm, said he will devote the rest of his life to develop products that mimic meat but are made entirely from vegetable sources.
The researcher said he is working "to develop and commercialise 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."