The world’s first burger made from meat grown in a test tube will be served at an exclusive London restaurant on Monday – for the not-so-bargain price of A$414,000 (250,000 pounds), according to media reports.
The five-ounce burger will be made of “synthetic” meat created from the stem cells of a cow.
It will be fed to an unknown diner whose reaction will be seen in front of an invitation-only crowd.
The scientist behind the project, Mark Post from Maastricht University in the Netherlands, has told the British media that artificially grown meat will be needed to satisfy the growing world population’s increasing demand for protein without depleting the earth’s limited natural resources.
“Right now, we are using 70 percent of all our agricultural capacity to grow meat through livestock,” he said.
“You are going to need alternatives. If we don’t do anything, meat will become a luxury food and will become very expensive."
Dr Post said the process of turning stem cells into artificially produced meat involves four steps.
First, the stem cells are stripped from the cow’s muscle.
Second, they are incubated in a nutrient broth until they multiply many times over, creating a sticky tissue.
Third, this tissue is then bulked up through the laboratory-equivalent of exercise – it is anchored to Velcro and stretched.
Fourth and finally, 3000 strips of the lab-grown meat are minced, and, along with 200 pieces of lab-grown animal fat, fused together to form a burger.
The muscle is said to be grayish-white in colour due to lack of blood cells.
However, Dr Post said he plans to employ already accepted food technology methods to improve its appearance, taste, and texture to make it more appetising.
He said that while the process was lengthy and expensive, with the first burger pattie costing an estimated A$414,000 to produce, he predicts that it could take just six weeks from stem cell to the shop to produce the meat in future.
Some media outlets have labelled the technology as “franken-beef” while many have also used the story to decry the perceived environmental impacts of livestock production.
One article quoting Oxford university scientists suggested that cultured beef would need 45 percent less energy than natural beef, 99 percent less land than regular livestock and would produce between 78 and 95 percent less greenhouse gas.
In 2008, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) announced a $1 million reward for the first person to develop a commercially viable lab-grown meat.
Scientists all over the world are said to be working on ways to earn the prize, however Dr Post appears to stolen the march on the competition to date.
He has also predicted that we may see lab-grown beef in grocery stores within many of our lifetimes.
“Cultured beef production has a long way to go and will not be on the market for some time as the technique still needs to be refined and altered to allow for mass production,” according to a press release from Maastricht University.
“We predict that this will be in the next 20 years.”