06 March 2012

Test tube burger gives a glimpse into the possible future of meat

Last fall, Professor Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands was able to grow small pieces of muscle tissue from pig stem cells. It was recently announced that they were able to do the same with cow tissue, paving way for the first test tube hamburger that is expected to be developed by October of this year. Currently, the process is time consuming and costly, with a single burger costing around 250,000 euros (about $330,625). Researchers are hoping to find a way to mass produce their laboratory meat in order to bring it to market and lower the price tag.
Photo of test tube meat released by Maastricht University

Scientists have been saying for years that in order to keep supplying the world's population with enough food, we should eat less meat. The ecological costs of farming animals for human consumption is extremely high, and there is no way we can continue to sustain ourselves at this rate. Some believe that this new development could be the solution to these growing concerns but will the idea take off?

In today's market, consumers are becoming more aware of where their food originates. From organic and local to processed and genetically modified, people are getting more and more picky about what they put on their plates. With that being said, it is hard to say if anyone could ever embrace the fact that their meat was grown in a lab, especially those leading a plant based diet.

There is some debate about whether or not a vegetarian would, or should, eat this test tube meat. Many who choose not to eat meat or animal products do so because they don't believe in killing when it's not essential for survival. The morality line blurs when you start growing meat from cells. The Maastricht University scientists say they can obtain the required materials from live animals, but confessed that the best method for extraction would require slaughter. This immediately removes any doubt for some, while remaining a grey area for others. If killing just a single animal could produce the same amount of meat as, say, a thousand, then one may argue that this is a better option. The reduction of suffering is considered a victory in animal rights groups, but it is doubtful that many of them would actually eat the product themselves.

In today's world of mass consumption and overpopulation, it is clear that we must find a better way to manage our resources. Whether you consider the environment, economics or ethics, meat has been an issue for years. Test tube meat may one day be the only viable solution for those who won't ever give up meat. For now, the best way to create a sustainable future is reduce our reliance on animals for food.

Tierney Eichman | Blog | Facebook
San Francisco, CA Tierney currently lives in San Francisco and has been a vegan for almost 4 years and a vegetarian for twice that. She loves travel, reading, languages, yoga, the outdoors, vegan cooking and baking. She likes to experiment with different recipes to make them her own, and particularly enjoys recreating her favorite restaurant foods at home. Tierney started her website to inspire people to eat less animal products without feeling overwhelmed. She believes that all of our choices add up and can make a big difference in the world.

Photo credit: Maastricht University, flickr.com/photos/arndog, Thier Aquino and TDIV