Quickfire Science: Lab Grown Meat

08 August 2013
Posted by Dave Ansell.

This week, the world's first lab grown beef burger was cooked and eaten in A pair of cheeseburgersLondon. 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!

Add a comment