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Test Tube Burger?

May 28th, 2013

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It sounds a little like a science experiment gone wrong. But some consider it a science experiment gone right.

Dr. Mark Post, a scientist in the Netherlands, has successfully grown hamburger meat in a little petri dish by taking muscle tissue from a cow (the part of the meat we eat as burgers) … and figured out how to grow it until there’s enough to make a patty.

Science fiction is now science fact.

Graphic from Internet, original source unknown.

It’s an idea that was dreamed up a long time ago … but isn’t actually that easy to do. And it won’t be showing up at a grocery store near you anytime soon.

The burger Dr. Post was able to make cost around $325,000 to get to this point. Just $324,999 shy of a McDonald’s dollar menu burger — and that comes with two patties!

But the idea is to one day figure out how to make more meat for less money in a way that’s safe for people, and the environment. Still, the idea of it just plain creeps some people out.

What are the potential benefits?

“If you can grow meat in a laboratory, it means you don’t have to kill animals,” explains Henry Fountain, a New York Times writer Nine billion animals are killed for food in the U.S., each year, reports  PBS.

It could help solve some world hunger problems.   If we can grow as much meat as we want, then we can hopefully feed as many people as we need to. PBS News Hour Extra reports that “global demand for meat will double in the next 40 years.” Adding that, “the world’s population is estimated to grow from 7 billion to around 9 billion by 2050.” These are issues we need to address test tube beef or not.

It could help the environment.  Raising livestock takes a lot of time, energy, and space. And, hard to imagine but true, cows’ flatulence (a fancy word for farts!) are actually, when we’re talking in the millions, surprisingly bad for the environment. PBS reports that “livestock is responsible for nearly 20 percent of all greenhouse-gas emissions and cattle consume 10 percent of the world’s fresh water supplies.

It might be safer.  In theory, you have more control in a lab.


For some, it just isn’t natural. And that’s reason enough. And some believe that science should play less of a role in food and not more. Some say the solution is simply to eat less meat, or none at all. Skeptics aren’t even convinced it should count as real meat. Do you think it should?


Somebody may get the chance soon. The first test tube hamburger is scheduled to be grilled later this year, possibly to much fanfare by a celebrity chef.

What do you think? Is this the right way to go? 

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26 Comments on “Test Tube Burger?”

  • Caillou says:

    That is gross but cool!

  • A Guardian article claimed in January 2012 that the “test-tube meat” could become a reality that year, with more than 30 teams around the world working on the best and most efficient way to make such meat tasty and economically viable. There are two dominant methods out there right now – first, to grow new muscle cells from stem cells and ‘bulking’ them up by stretching them, in a process that mimics exercise; and second, to use the 3-D printing used by Modern Meadow in leather production to also spray successive layers of ‘bio-ink’ to build fake steaks or hamburgers. NBC reports that Modern Meadow’s research efforts are immensely interesting for industry and governments alike, are supported by both private and public grants, and that their project already garnered $2 million of funding.

  • Vicki says:

    Specter explains that part of the motivation for growing meat in laboratories is animal welfare: billions of cows, chickens and pigs would no longer spend their lives force-fed grain and antibiotics or cooped up in factory farms.

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