Holland Working on Test-Tube Hamburger

Monday, 27 Jun 2011 03:35 PM

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If you’ve ever wondered what modern technology would bring next, here’s your answer: the test-tube hamburger. Dutch scientists tell Scientific American magazine that the world’s first laboratory-grown burger is just one year away from fruition, reports The Daily Mail.

Those involved in the creation of the product, which involves beef mince grown from stem cells taken from animal muscle, may have found a way for people to enjoy meat without animals being slaughtered.

Scientists predict that over the next few decades, the world’s population will grow so rapidly that the livestock population will be insufficient to feed everyone. “I don’t see any way you could rely on old-fashioned livestock in the coming decades,” says Mark Post, leader of the project and professor of physiology at Holland’s Maastricht University. Post and his colleagues hope that the test-tube burger is an answer to this predicament.

Currently, Dutch scientists are working on developing “in vitro” meat, burgers grown from 10,000 stem cells extracted from cattle that are left alone to multiply over a billion times, eventually producing tissue similar to beef. “In vitro meat will be the only choice left,” says Post.

Though the idea has never been executed well enough to reach the public market, test-tube meat has been on the minds of scientists for some time now. In 2009, others from Maastricht University grew strips of pork using the same stem cell method. The project was not very successful, though, as they admitted that the pork did not taste good and was grey in color with a texture resembling that of calamari. Across the world, a laboratory in New York once grew fish fillets from the muscle tissue of goldfish.

But even if laboratory-grown meat does not taste or feel like real meat, scientists are convinced that the population will get used to it if faced with a shortage of livestock. The world’s meat consumption is expected to double by the year 2050 as the population rises, and scientists are determined to find a solution.

Holland currently leads the rest of the world in production of artificial meat, and the Dutch government has invested £1.5 million for further research. An Oxford University study concluded that producing in vitro meat would consume 35 to 60 percent less energy, 98 percent less land and produce 80 to 95 percent less greenhouse gas than conventional farming. Utrecht University researchers have calculated that just 10 stem cells could produce up to 50,000 tons of meat in two months.

If you are intrigued by the possibility of test-tube burgers, you could be the first one to get a taste of the technological creations. “We are trying to prove to the world we can make a product out of this, and we need a courageous person who is willing to be the first to taste it,” said Dr. Post.

Over the next 12 months, keep your eyes peeled for the man-made meat.

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