At lunch time today, Dr Mark Post from Maastricht University will cook and eat a burger. Ok, nothing special so far, except that the meat in this burger did not come direct from a cow. It has been grown in his lab from cow muscle stem cells and cost €250,000 to make.
So why would you want to grown meat in this way? Being able to grow meat in the lab would mean we could grow it on a large scale in big vats and not have to eat animals.
The process of making the meat starts with muscle stem cells taken from a biopsy. These are grown on a sugar based support structure in a commercially available nutrient media supplemented with calf serum. It is envisaged that eventually the nutrient media could be made from seaweed extract. The price would of course come down significantly once the technology was scaled up and further improvements made.
This is another possible solution to the animal protein shortage that we are facing. In previous blogs, I reported on the possibility of using insects as a cheap source of protein either direct or as animal feed. Whether one or both of these ideas turn your stomach, it does appear that our demand for meat will eventually reach unsustainable levels and alternatives will have to be found.
Details of the “in vitro” meat project can be found on the Maastricht University’s website.