LONDON — A corner of west London will see culinary and scientific history made on Monday when scientists cook and serve up the world’s first lab-grown beef burger.
The in-vitro burger, cultured from cattle stem cells, the first example of what its creator says could provide an answer to global food shortages and help combat climate change, will be fried in a pan and tasted by two volunteers.
The burger is the result of years of research by Dutch scientist Mark Post, a vascular biologist at the University of Maastricht, who is working to show how meat grown in petri dishes might one day be a true alternative to meat from livestock.
The meat in the burger has been made by knitting together around 20,000 strands of protein that has been cultured from cattle stem cells in Post’s lab.
The tissue is grown by placing the cells in a ring, like a donut, around a hub of nutrient gel, Post explained.
To prepare the burger, scientists combined the cultured beef with other ingredients normally used in burgers, such as salt, breadcrumbs and egg powder. Red beet juice and saffron have been added to bring out its natural colours.
“Our burger is made from muscle cells taken from a cow. We haven’t altered them in any way,” Post said in a statement on Friday. “For it to succeed it has to look, feel and hopefully taste like the real thing.”
Success, in Post’s view, would mean not just a tasty burger, but also the prospect of finding a sustainable, ethical and environmentally friendly alternative to meat production.
According to a 2006 report by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), industrialized agriculture contributes on a “massive scale” to climate change, air pollution, land degradation, energy use, deforestation and biodiversity decline.