Lab-grown hamburger could soon be $36/pound

Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com – @BednarChuck

If you were intrigued by laboratory-grown hamburgers when they were first created by Professor Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands last year, but were put off by the thought of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for one, we’ve got some good news for you!

According to CNET, the cost of making a burger from what Professor Post refers to as “cultured meat” was a steep $273,000 (€250,000) a little over a year ago, but those costs could soon fall to just $30 per pound ($65 per kilogram, or about $9.10 per 140-gram patty) in the near future.

Bringing lab-grown Big Macs one step closer to fruition

That reduction in cost depends on the production of lab-grown beef production being scaled up drastically, Post told Australia’s ABC News on Friday. Even though each burger contains about 20,000 thing strands of lab-grown tissue, Post estimated that up to 10,000 kilos (11 tons) of meat could be produced from just a single small piece of muscle using his method.

Despite the lower cost of production, and the fact that the research involved in developing the technique used to produce the beef has already been completed, there are still some obstacles to overcome, CNET said. For instance, while the production method is effective, it is rather slow and currently is only viable on a small scale. It needs to become faster and more efficient before it can become produce enough product to become a viable alternative on the market.

Those advances need to come without the use of growth hormones, which the website points out tend to make consumers uncomfortable. Furthermore, the Post’s current technique uses fetal calf serum as a medium in which to grown the meat cells, but since this substance is made out of the blood of baby cows, it could be difficult to produce enough serum for large-scale production.

So why bother with law-grown hamburgers at all?

Advocates note that there are many potential advantages to Post’s lab-grown beef, staring with the fact that it would significantly reduce the need for cows to be slaughters. In addition, it could save on land use, water and energy required for livestock, and reduce the production of methane and other greenhouse gases. Also, since cows are inefficient at converting vegetable proteins into animal proteins, Post told ABC News that his method could prevent food from being wasted.

However, while the cost issues are being addressed, there’s still the matter of taste. ABC News said that the beef “passed the food critics’ taste test,” CNET noted that some experts said that the lack of fat in the lab-grown product “resulted in a lack of juiciness and flavor.” Post and his colleagues are reportedly working on fixing this issue by growing fat cells in the laboratory.

All in all, the whole thing reminds us of one of our favorite ’90s movies:

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