Mark Post, professor of Vascular Physiology and Tissue Engineering at Maastricht University has created the burger from stem cells grown in a laboratory. He launched his bid to produce an edible in vitro burger in October 2011 using private funding. His work is a continuation of a government-funded study involving three Dutch universities and led by W Van Eelen in 2004, which developed the technology needed to produce pieces of meat from stem cells.
Post’s method involves extracting stem cells from small pieces of fresh cow muscle, and encouraging them to multiply and develop into muscle cells, a natural process because stem cells are a designated muscle precursor. As the muscle cells grow, they are supplied with nutrients and eventually form muscle strands. The final result is edible muscle tissue, which can be ground to form minced meat and made into a burger.
Although the artificial meat may not have the same taste and texture as ‘real’ meat, due to lack of balanced protein composition and fat tissue, Post said that accepted food technology methods could be used to improve the taste and texture of the final product.
Post’s finished five-ounce burger is composed of 3,000 muscle strands and cost over $380,000. However, Post said the artificial burger was a ‘proof of concept’ which represented the first critical step towards a sustainable alternative to meat production.
He hoped that the technology could be refined and the costs brought down, allowing the world to reduce its reliance on animal agriculture.
The burger will be cooked in front of an invited audience in London on 5 August. Post will explain the science behind the burger, and it will be offered for tasting.