June 28, 2011

Scientists Working To Create Test-tube Hamburgers

Dutch scientists claim they will be able to produce edible meat grown from stem cells within a year, and believe lab-grown meat in the future will ultimately end the world's reliance on meat from livestock.

And furthermore, the researchers predict that over the next few decades the world population will balloon so rapidly that there will not be enough livestock to feed everyone. As a result, laboratory-grown beef, chicken and pork would become necessary.

A burger, grown from 10,000 stem cells extracted from cattle, is currently being developed by the Dutch team of researchers. The stem cells are left in the lab to multiply more than a billion times to produce muscle similar to beef. Scientists call this product "Ëœin vitro' meat.

"I don't see any way you could rely on old-fashioned livestock in the coming decades," said Mark Post, professor of physiology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. The first burger could be on a plate, ready to eat within 12 months, he said.

"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," Post told the Scientific American magazine. "If no one comes forward then it might be me."

Scientists were able to grow strips of pork using the same method in 2009. They said it was not particularly tasty, nor appetizing. It was grayish in color and had a texture similar to that of calamari. Fish fillets have also been grown in a NY laboratory using cells taken from goldfish muscle tissue.

Scientists believe that even if the cultured meat doesn't taste quite the same as livestock meat, they are convinced the public would eventually get used to it, especially if they had no other choice.

"When we are eating a hamburger we don't think, "ËœI'm eating a dead cow.' And when people are already far from what they eat, it's not too hard to see them accepting cultured meat," said a colleague of Post.

As the world's population rapidly increases, global meat consumption is expected to double by 2050.

The Dutch government has invested more than $2 million (US) in the research and development of lab-grown meat. The scientists believe that test-tube burger is only the first stage in a new food revolution that could solve the world's hunger issues.

Utrecht University researchers calculate that an initial 10 stem cells could produce up to 50,000 tons of meat in two months. And an Oxford University study found that this process would consume up 60 percent less energy, 98 percent less land and produce as much as 90 percent less greenhouse gas than conventional farming.


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