One lab-grown hamburger, coming up – Blog Central, Kate Lunau …

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Scientist Dr. Mark Post poses with samples of in-vitro meat in a laboratory, at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands on November 9, 2011. (Francois Lenoir/Reuters)

Its high time for summer barbecue season. On Aug. 5, as long weekend revelers across Canada throw steaks and sausages on the grill, Dr. Mark Post will be cooking up something very different: a hamburger made of animal stem cells, grown in his lab at Maastricht University in the Netherlands.

This one little five-ounce patty has taken him years to perfect, at a cost of 300,000 euros, or over $409,500 (donated by an anonymous investor), making it what must be the most expensive and labour-intensive sandwich patty in history. Some doubted it could be done. As the burger is unveiled in Londonthen bitten, chewed, swallowed and consumed, for all the world to seePosts burger will redefine meat as we know it. This is the food of the future.

Post, a medical doctor, has been attempting to create tissues in the lab for almost a decade. The applications are huge: engineered human tissues could be used to test drugs, for example, or to treat many diseases where the body wastes away. To Post, the food application started out as an interesting side project, one that soon stole the spotlight from his other work. Meat for consumption is in theory, much easier to grow, he told Macleans in an interview in 2012. The tissue does not need to physically integrate into the body. I considered it a closer goal to reach, he says, and a very important one.

Indeed, the global appetite for meat is growing. Livestock production already takes up 30 per cent of the land surface on our planet, says a 2006 United Nations report, producing more greenhouse gas emissions than all our cars and trucks, combined. According to Patrick O. Brown of Stanford University, eating one four-ounce hamburger is the equivalent of leaving a bathroom faucet running round-the-clock for a week. Developing nations are increasingly emulating the meat-heavy Western diet, and it isnt sustainable. We are heading towards a meat shortage worldwide, Post says. Instead of producing beef, pork and poultry on massive industrial farms, in the near future, he predicts, well be growing it in factories. And while this first hamburger was incredibly expensive to make, as techniques are perfected and lab-grown stem-cell burgers can be mass-produced, the cost will go down; one day it could be lower than the price of traditionally raised meat, which is expected to rise.

Of course, growing a minced hamburger pattylet alone a dense, fat-marbled steakisnt a simple task. Post and his team harvested stem cells from a cows muscle tissue, and bathed them in a special formula of nutrients. As these cells start to differentiate into muscle cells, theyre hooked to attachment points (Post has used Velcro) to create tiny strips of tissue, like a tendon. Eventually, they start to contract on their own. The downside for animal lovers is that you still need animals, a donor herd to provide stem cells, Post says. But compared to factory farming today, the number would be very small. If we grew all our meat in a lab, Post believes, the number of livestock worldwide could be reduced by a factor of one millionthe equivalent of reducing 10 billion livestock animals on the planet to 10,000. This would free up land, water, and other resources, while making sure remaining livestock didnt suffer a death fraught with the issues of large-scale slaughter.

Other than Post, only a handful of scientists are working on lab-grown meat; others believe the future lies in plant-based substitutes, ones so good they could fool even the most discerning palate, although Post maintains that we humans will always have an appetite for the real thing. Worldwide, the meat-eater population is going to grow. Theres no doubt about that, he says. Posts hamburger is a powerful proof of concept, an important first step. As we begin to unravel the implications of this one burgerfor science, for health care, and for the food supply that feeds everyone on the planetwell be watching on Aug. 5, with bated breath, wondering what, exactly, it tastes like.

Anyone who wants to follow along can watch a livestream of the burger consumption on Aug. 5

Continued here: One lab-grown hamburger, coming up Blog Central, Kate Lunau

Continued here:
One lab-grown hamburger, coming up – Blog Central, Kate Lunau ...

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