Here comes the Lab Burger

In 2013 Dr Mark Post made the world’s first lab burger. It came in at a cost of $330,000.

Now this isn’t wasn’t some kind of meat substitute, but actual meat, grown from cell cultures, extracted from the animal itself. The way it is done is by harmless extraction of stem cells muscle tissue from the ‘source animal’. They then take the sample, place a special gel around it, from which myotubes are grown to look and taste exactly like the meat – because it ‘is’ the meat. Scientists have coined the term ‘clean meat’ to describe it, though in classic form, the incumbent cattle industry are lobbying for the term meat to be disallowed to describe it.

Since that time the cost of production of ‘lab meat’ has declined significantly. Today it costs around $6000 for a quarter pound of beef and by 202o, it is estimated that the cost of a meat patty will be around $10 each – not far off what people pay for gourmet burgers these days. Eventually lab grown meat will be cheaper than any farm can produce. With hundreds of millions being invested in the technology by the likes of Bill Gates, it may be sooner than we think.

This isn’t just a quirk of technology, a novel form of food production, it has important environmental considerations we should all be very pleased with. Let’s consider the facts:

  • This process is possible with any type of meat
  • It involves no animal cruelty
  • Production uses 80% less water
  • It has 96% less greenhouse emissions

This last bit is what matters most, because surprisingly, livestock contributes to more greenhouse emissions than cars, trucks and planes combined according to the Scientific American. What we eat has a bigger impact on the environment than what we drive. So if you’re a Hummer Driving vegetarian, you can now be forgiven!

Now before you claim that such meat sounds disgusting, it’s worth remembering that at the dawn of the agricultural revolution farm grown meat was once considered disgusting. How could animals we farm, be as good as meat we catch? In any case I’m sure a trip down to your local abattoir will give you a new light on what is and isn’t, disgusting. Now, while I’m the furthest thing from being a vegetarian, I’ll put my hand up high for any use of technology which improve the world – and lab meat is high on my list. A world where we can create ‘nature identical food‘ and reduce our environmental impact, is something we should collectively encourage. And if you think you wouldn’t eat such a thing, ask yourself if you really know what you’re eating now?

I recently discussed the topic on radio, which freaked some people out. Click here to listen.

We need each other,