I’d eat a burger made by Heston Blumenthal, whether it was ground up meat from a real British cow or meat grown in a Petri dish. As mad as that might sound, the first lab-grown burger could be with us later this year.
Scientists have taken another step in creating animal tissue in a lab environment. Their aim? To create a hamburger by the end of the year.
You might be turning your nose up at the idea of synthetic meat. But why is growing meat in a Petri dish worse than slaughtering an animal?
Man-made meat more sustainable
Maastricht University in the Netherlands has grown a strip of muscle tissue exactly for this purpose. Professor Mark Post says that lab-grown meat would have a positive impact on reducing our environmental footprint, telling BBC News:
‘It will help reduce land pressures. Anything that stops more wild land being converted to agricultural land is a good thing. We’re already reaching a critical point in availability of arable land.’
Most food scientists think our current way of producing food is unsustainable. With a growing world population, farmers simply won’t be able to keep up with our appetite for meat. Sure, we could all become vegetarians, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.
So it’s not just a question of ethics, it’s a question of sustainability and efficiency – growing meat could be a much better way to feed our bellies than rearing livestock.
The taste of synthetic burgers
At the moment, Maastricht Uni’s strip of meat doesn’t sound terribly appetising. It’s basically white muscle, but they plan to grow it with blood, fat and flesh so they can make a burger – with Heston at the top of a list of chefs they’d like to cook it.
Taste will of course be an issue – as many would say there’s already a marked difference between particular breeds of cow. How could a piece of meat grown in a lab possibly compete on taste?
The scientists will have to overcome that hurdle, if it’s possible for them to do so. Who knows, maybe Which? will be doing taste tests of synthetic versus real meat in the far future?
So, would you happily sit down with me and take a bite from a lab-grown burger? We’ve asked you before and the idea was broadly given the thumbs up, with commenter roy81b concluding:
‘Most people will have already experienced ‘manmade’ meat substitues (Tofu, Quorn etc) and I suspect that most found them just about acceptable. So if lab-grown meat is offered at the right price I believe many would at least try just to be able to compare and judge for themselves.’