Scientists from the Netherlands are working on making a hamburger with a hefty price tag — about $317,000.
The hamburger won’t be just any ordinary beef patty. The meat will be made in a laboratory, grown from cow stem cells. No animal slaughter required.
According to a report in The Guardian, the project is funded by an anonymous individual with the goal of drastically cutting the number of animals raised for food. Dr. Mark Post, the researcher leading the venture at University Maastricht, told The Guardian he plans to unveil a completely lab-grown burger for taste-testing this October.
“Everybody loves meat and meat consumption is going to double in the next 40 years,” Post told ABC News last year. “In my mind, meat consumption is here to stay, and if you want to do that at a higher efficiency than what is currently done by cows and pigs, you have to explore the possibility of doing that in the lab.”
To make a burger, the researchers start by taking adult stem cells from cows and placing them in containers full of nutrients in the laboratory, growing them into strips of cow muscle. According to the Guardian, Post and his team so far have grown thin sheets of cow muscle a little more than an inch long and about half an inch wide. They’ll need about 3,000 sheets of muscle and a few hundred pieces of fatty tissue to make a burger. Then just mince the muscle and fat, mash them into a patty and heat up the grill.
Post’s beef experiment is the latest attempt by scientists to create lab-grown meat, a decades-old dream of researchers and activists concerned about human health, the environment and animal welfare.
Raising livestock for human consumption takes a major toll on natural resources, and many find the process ethically unappetizing. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the global livestock industry generates about 16 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Cattle alone consume about 80 percent of the world’s farmland and 10 percent of its fresh water.
The demand for meat is only going to keep growing. In 2011, the FAO estimated that nearly 13 percent of calories consumed worldwide came from livestock products. As the world’s population keeps growing, the consumption of meat could rise by nearly 75 percent.
“You can easily calculate that we need alternatives. If you don’t do anything, meat will become a luxury food and be very, very expensive,” Post told the Guardian.
There are no guarantees that the lab-grown burger will taste like the real thing, mostly because the protein content of real meat is higher than what can be produced in the lab. In 2010, The Associated Press reported that Post tried to create lab-grown pork, which ended up with a texture more like a scallop than meat — squishy and moist.
Ki Mae Heussner contributed to this report.