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The beef muscle tissue above was grown in a laboratory and cost $325,000 to make. (Francois Lenoir / Reuters)

A Burger Grown in a Lab

A scientist in the Netherlands has grown hamburger meat in a petri dish

By Sara Goudarzi | June 13 , 2013

Would you eat a hamburger made with meat grown not on a farm but in a laboratory? This meal is real. Mark Post, a biologist at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, has created a five-ounce hamburger using meat made in petri dishes.

The meat was grown in a lab using stem cells from leftover animal parts obtained from animals killed for meat. Stem cells are unspecialized cells that can become any one of the body’s approximately 200 cell types. These different cells make up the muscles, organs, skin, and everything else in an organism’s body. Post has used stem cells to create the cells that form the meaty part of cows that humans find most tasty when it comes to hamburgers.

The burger meat, which cost $325,000 to create, will soon be cooked and eaten at a hamburger cook-off in London. Post hopes to show the world the benefits of in vitro meat. In vitro means grown in an artificial environment, such as a laboratory, instead of inside a living organism.

Post’s pricy burger is made with 20,000 strips of in vitro muscle tissue. It is, however, created without blood, making it a whitish color rather than pinkish-red. It also does not have the fat that gives flavor to natural beef. Despite this, Post says, the burger tastes reasonably good. He plans to season the meat with salt and pepper for the London event.

ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY OR “EW!”?

Producing enough in vitro meat to sell in stores would be difficult and expensive. It took a lot of time and money to make just one hamburger!

But Post argues that in vitro meat could help make more farmland available for food crops and help the planet overall. Lab-created meat would produce less waste and utilize less land, water, and energy, he says, than raising cows and other livestock for food does.

“Current livestock meat production is just not sustainable,” Post told news agency Reuters in 2011. “Right now, we are using more than 50 percent of...agricultural land for livestock. It’s simple math. We have to come up with alternatives.”

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