Scientists at Maastricht University in the Netherlands are focused on growing hamburgers. The odd thing is that they are not planning on growing an animal to produce the hamburger but rather growing the meat in a laboratory dish. They have used stem cells which have the ability to grow into any type of cell, to grow strips of muscle. When they have enough of these muscle strips, they plan on adding artificial fat and blood and making the world’s first laboratory grown hamburger. They even plan on hiring a celebrity chef to cook it.
At a whopping price of over $313,000, this is expected to be by far the most expensive hamburger ever created. So why create hamburgers that almost cost a 1/3rd of a million dollars? Natural meat is becoming more expensive to come by as land, feed, and labor prices continue to rise. It takes approximately 100g of vegetable protein to produce 15g of meat protein and it’s thought that eventually synthetic meat could be produced at an efficiency of 50% instead of 15%. Meat could also be grown in space, underground, or at sea.
It is thought that as the population increases over the next 50 years, meat could become a scarcity. While this first attempt at creating artificial meat is extremely resource intensive, as the process become streamlined prices are sure to go down. At meat prices continue to increase, there will eventually come a time when artificial meat will become economically preferable to produce. This is very similar to what is happening with alternative energy sources currently. As oil prices increase, other forms of energy which used to be far too expensive to produce are now looking better and better.
So how will this artificial meat taste? Researchers admit that it is likely to be a little bland at first. They will have to ultimately study what meat can be grown most efficiently and how to make it taste as good as possible. While this will require more research, it ultimately has the potential for making every hamburger taste like it was made from the best meat available on Earth. After all, if you are growing the meat, you can select the best cells and even eventually genetically engineer them for flavor. We will have to see how long it takes before they can get the whole artificial meat manufacturing process streamlined. Until then, I guess I’ll just have to eat frankfurters in anticipation of my first frankenburger.