Laboratory Burger

Mark Post (NL)

In a world first, Mark Post of Maastricht University revealed a ‘Cultured Beef’ burger at a press-release event in London in August of 2013. The burger was fried and tasted at this event, and the left-overs were then plastinated in a process where water and fat are replaced by plastic, so it will not smell or decay.

Cultured Beef is created by harvesting muscle cells from a living cow. Scientists then feed and nurture the cells in a nutrient solution so they multiply to create muscle tissue. The tissue is grown by placing the cells in a ring, like a donut, around a hub of gel. The muscle cells grow into small strands of meat. Some 20,000 strands are needed to make one 140 gram burger. The meat created is biologically the same as the meat tissue that comes from a cow. They go through the same process with fat tissue, and at a later stage, they mix the in vitro meat with the in vitro fat in specific proportions to get a juicy and tasty result. This process is still under development and it could take ten years or more before it is commercially viable.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that the demand for meat is going to increase by more than two thirds in the next forty years and current production methods are not sustainable. In the near future, both meat and other staple foods are likely to become expensive luxury items thanks to the increased demand, unless we find a sustainable alternative. The increase in demand will also significantly increase levels of methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, and cause loss of biodiversity.

Although Mark’s burger is only intended as a proof of concept and it will be a while before Cultured Beef appears on supermarket shelves, if at all, it is likely to change the way we eat and think about food forever.

PROFILE

Mark Post is a medical doctor whose main research interest is the engineering of tissues for medical applications and for food. The medical applications of Mark’s research focus on the construction of blood vessels that can be used as grafts for coronary artery bypass grafting. Mark has held positions at Harvard Medical School, Dartmouth Medical School, and is currently the Chair of Physiology and Vice Dean of Biomedical Technology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands.

Grow House collects a number of projects which propose to bring agriculture out of the fields at the periphery of town and into the centre of our houses, cities and factories.