Eat it, or not

August 6, 2013

synthetic hamburgerBy 2050 the demand for meat will have doubled across the globe, but we will have less water, land and farmers to grow it with.

Given that it’s unlikely we will decrease our universal appetite for animal protein, nor will we unfortunately get any better at sharing what we already have and making it go further, so how will we solve our ever-growing problem for meat production?

One solution that’s gaining momentum is to take an exponential leap and grow meat in a laboratory, without ever having to raise any livestock.

Dr Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands and his team, including his benefactor Google’s Sergey Brin have just demonstrated the first commercial lab grown hamburger, after almost a decade of experimentation.

It started life as a mere handful of muscle cells taken from the shoulder of a cow, before being transferred to a petri dish, smothered in nutrients and left to grow to 20,000 strands that formed this AUS$434,166.29 hamburger.

Although the taste was not quite there, the mouth feel and texture were and with the addition of a bit more fat (which is present in every hamburger) we could in 7 – 10 years have a viable contender for our dinner plates.

This new technology should be able to produce the equivalent of 50,000 tons of meat from these same 10 cells within 2 months and has the tacit approval of PETA.

The argument here is not whether this new form of food will eventually do away with farming livestock (because it won’t), but whether this can in time become one part of our everyday food chain and find a place in some of our shopping baskets and my guess is, it will.

This was a popular topic and here are some of the radio interviews I did on it:

Jill Emberson – ABC

Tim – ABC

David Dowsett – ABC Wide Bay