Full disclosure: Merck, a science and technology company, have been kind enough to sponsor this blog post, which gives me the freedom to cleanse my palate and sink my teeth into something a little different; synthetic meat.
Back in 2013 I remember watching a clip on YouTube of food critics chowing down on a $300,000 lab-grown burger and thinking to myself, “Wow! I would love to give that a try.” The burger was created by Dutch pharmacologist and Professor of Vascular Physiology at Maastricht University, Dr. Mark Post, who believes the technology used to create the burger could have major impact on society.
The five-ounce burger consisted of about 20,000 thin strips of cultured muscle tissue, which were made from a type of stem cell called a my-satellite cell, which the body uses to repair injured muscle tissue. These cells were removed from the neck of a cow and put in a container with a growth medium, allowing them to grow and divide. They were then poured into a dish where their growth medium was reduced, forcing them to differentiate into muscle cells. Over time these cells formed primitive muscle fibres called myotubes which were collected and cooked live on TV. Food critic Hanni Rützler stated:
“There is really a bite to it, there is quite some flavour with the browning. I know there is no fat in it so I didn’t really know how juicy it would be, but there is quite some intense taste; it’s close to meat, it’s not that juicy, but the consistency is perfect. This is meat to me… It’s really something to bite on and I think the look is quite similar.”
Since 2013 the price tag has plummeted from $300,000 to a predicted $50, which is still on the expensive side but now I won’t have to sell a kidney to try one. As the technology advances the price will inevitably continue to go down and soon you might be seeing them in your local supermarket. So, would you eat a synthetic beef burger? I know I would, not only because I am curious to know what it tastes like, but, quite simply, I think it’s cool. As the world’s population increases and the standard of life continues to improve, more and more people are wanting meat on their dinner table. As lab grown or ‘cultured’ meat is less resource-intensive than farming animals, it would help towards sustainability. The only issue I can see is persuading people to give it a try; I am still trying to convince my dad to try a vegan sausage roll.
This is something I am genuinely interested to see and I would like to end by thanking Merck for giving me the opportunity to briefly talk about a technology which I personally believe will make the planet a better place.