The world’s first test tube burger will be cooked and eaten at a live demonstration of “cultured beef” technology in London next month.
The burger is being created from thousands of strands of artificial meat that have been painstakingly grown from stem cells in a laboratory.
Prof Mark Post will explain how he created the test-tube meat at his laboratory at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, before serving the resulting patty to a mystery diner.
He will present the beefburger as a “proof of concept” that laboratory-grown meat could in future become a sustainable alternative to farmed beef, pork or chicken, potentially cutting billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases currently released by livestock.
The meat could also be deemed suitable for vegetarians because it would dramatically reduce the need to slaughter animals, he is expected to say.
But the success or failure of the product, known as “in-vitro meat”, could hinge on the reaction of the diner, whose identity is expected to be revealed in the run-up to the event on August 5.
Until now the only person to have tasted lab-grown meat is a Russian journalist who snatched a sample of cultured pork during a visit to Prof Post’s lab – before it had been passed safe to eat – and declared himself unimpressed.
The burger will be made up of approximately 3,000 strips of muscle tissue, each measuring about 3cm long by 1.5cm wide.
Each strip is grown from a cow stem cell, which develops into a strip of muscle cells after being cultured in a synthetic broth containing vital nutrients.
The resulting strips begin contracting like real muscle, and are attached to Velcro and repeatedly stretched to keep them supple.
The meat, which will be ground up into a patty with similar strips of fat, may not sound as appealing as a fresh steak but Prof Post said it could satisfy the growing global demand for meat, which is expected to double by 2050.
Speaking at a conference last year, he said he had already produced meat with fibres almost identical to those in real beef, but it had a pinkish-yellow hue which he hoped to turn into a more realistic shade before making his first burger.
“We are going to provide a proof of concept showing out of stem cells we can make a product that looks, feels and hopefully tastes like meat,” he said.
He estimated that the first burger would cost about £220,000 to produce, but next month’s launch is almost a year later than he anticipated at the time. The current cost could be cut dramatically by industrialising the laborious process, however.
Funding for the project was provided by an anonymous and wealthy benefactor, who Prof Post described last year as a household name with a track record of “turning everything into gold”.
The benefactor’s identity is expected to be revealed at the event, although it is not clear whether they will be the person to sample the fruits of their investment.
Prof Post has also previously suggested he would like a celebrity chef to help him cook the burger.
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