Test-tube meat

Celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal could soon be dishing up a burger with a difference – a £210,000 ‘test- tube’ burger. 

Believe it or not, later this year the first ever beef patty created in a laboratory is set to be unveiled, and the scientists and financier behind it want the Michelin-starred chef to serve it up to a mystery guest.

At the end of February at the annual meeting of the American association for the advancement of Science (AAAS), Dutch scientist Mark Post announced that his team had been working on the revolution at the university of Maastricht for six years and that will soon be ready to go. ‘In October, we’re going to provide a proof-of-concept showing that, with in-vitro methods, out of stem cells we can make a product that looks like, feels like and, hopefully, tastes like meat,’ he explains.

You would hope it tastes like meat after an anonymous financial backer has poured €250,000 (£210,000) into the research. but while the prototype burger carries a hefty price tag, Post points out that, in time, the cost should be brought closer to that of real meat.

If the Dutch team is successful, it could mean a revolution for the agricultural, food production, retail and service industries, and be transformational for the environment too. The main aim of the research is to tackle the issue of unsustainable livestock farming. Post notes, ‘Meat demand is going to double in the next 40 years. If we do nothing, meat will become a luxury food and be very, very expensive.’

Making the test-tube meat involves a process that strips stem cells from the cow’s muscles and incubates them in nutrients. the resulting product is then stretched and the meat is minced and formed into a burger by adding lab-grown fat. Post remarks that at the moment the pieces of meat they have created are too small to cook but hope to have a ‘golf ball’ sized piece of meet to cook very soon.

The scientists have faith that the dinner guest will believe he is eating a fine butcher’s cut. Whatever the outcome, Post has certainly given the world some food for thought.

Aoife Hayes

Aoife Hayes was a staff journalist for Business XL, sister title to GrowthBusiness, from 2011 to 2012, before moving on to work for the BBC as a Broadcast journalist. She graduated from the University...

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