DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: A year and a half ago the professor of vascular physiology gave the world its first taste of a beef burger he’d grown from stem cells taken from cow muscle.
It passed the food critics’ taste test, but at more than a quarter of a million dollars, the lab quarter-pounder was no threat to the real deal. Now, after further development, Dr Post estimates it’s possible to produce lab-beef for $80 a kilo – and that within years it will be a price-competitive alternative.
Source: NT Cattlemen’s Association to hear that ‘cultured meat’ could end their industry within decades
It’s supposed to taste like actual beef, just entirely fat free. Last time I checked, they hadn’t found a way to grow fat into it, so it didn’t taste as good as a real beef burger.
The scientist estimates he would be able to produce it for that price. And note that this still isn’t a steak, or anything like that. It is large scale cell culture, producing thin strands or layers of beef muscle. Thick pieces of muscle currently cannot be created. Fatty tissue currently cannot be created. The price drop may just be accounted to basic problems having been solved and cannot simply be projected into the future, that’s why his estimate is in tens of years.
The tissue is currently cultured by using fetal calf serum, which is produced from bovine fetuses. Effectively not vegan, and it is still very dependent on conventional agriculture. It is unclear to me if, using fetal calf serum, the process still is calorically beneficial, as it should be in theory. Cultures also need to be kept in very clean conditions and depend on usage of antibiotics which might be a problem in large-scale production. Basic research has been done, but it still is a long way before this goes mainstream. I would guess that 3D printing plant proteins will produce cheaper meat replacements much earlier, as it already is doing a pretty good job and is already accepted by parts of society.
We’ve overcome one of the biggest challenges, which is a functional system for growing cells. Experimenting with that to make them thicker, fatter, and less reliant on specific fuels? That’s the next step. None of that would be possible without this framework in place. It’s a stepping stone.
Lab grown meat could get pretty weird. Exotic animals, sure. Perhaps we could harvest enough DNA to try to make extinct animal meat. Dodo, dinosaur, woolly mammoth…
And, of course, there will probably be a market for lab grown human meat. One day you might even be able to mail off a cheek swab sample to some factory… Have your own cells harvested, grown, and then in a couple months – have your own grown muscle tissue mailed back to you so you can eat a burger made of you…