Quickfire Science: Lab Grown Meat
Thu, 8th Aug 2013
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from the show Mapping out the Milky Way
This week, the world’s first lab grown beef burger was cooked and eaten in London. But how was it made, and why is it important? Here's this week’s Quickfire science.
- By the year 2050, the world’s growing population means that demand for meat will have more than doubled, but we are currently at capacity producing meat in the traditional way
- 70% of the world’s farmland is used to grow crops to feed livestock. Lab grown meat would free up some of this land to grow food to feed humans directly.
- Beef, in particular, is very bad for the environment- livestock account for nearly 20% of greenhouse gas emissions- more than all forms of transport put together, because they produce large amounts of methane.
- Meat has a carbon footprint at the checkout of 17kg of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilogram- cultured meat could be significantly less.
- To make the artificial burger, scientists extracted a special kind of stem cell from the muscle of cows. These ‘satellite cells’ are the same cells that help your muscles heal themselves when damaged.
- These cells are then grown in a nutrient-rich medium- they multiply many times, so one cell can become many millions.
- They are then attached to a scaffold, and stretched to increase their size- just like an animal doing exercise.
- Currently, the growing medium is derived from cow blood, but the hope is that a plant or micro-organism based medium will replace it in the long run.
- To prepare the burger, the tiny strips of muscle were then minced, seasoned, and shaped.
- Beetroot juice was added for colouring, as there is no blood in the burger.
- Taste testers said the burger had a meaty texture, but was a little bland in taste.
- Scientists think that cultured burgers could be on our shelves within 20 years.
- In theory, burgers can be made from any animal that has stem cells, so we could even be eating penguin or lion burgers in the future!