Vegetarian’s Dream? Stem Cell Burgers


Move over PETA.  If you have foregone meat on the basis of animal cruelty, your problems will soon be over.  It turns out that scientists may be able to grow beef in a petri dish.

That’s right.  At the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, Dr. Mark Post, professor of vascular physiology, is feverishly working to create meat from stem cells.  And so far it’s going pretty well.  They even plan to introduce a burger created by these means in October of 2012.  According to Post, the creation of meat is not just something to appeal to vegetarians.  He says that consumption of meat will double in the next forty years with the Earth’s population.  There is simply not enough land to create the meat needed.  Creating meat in laboratories is his solution.

The burger is not the mouth-watering variety you’re used to just yet.  Right now, the meat made is only 3 centimeters long and weighs less than half a gram.  But Post is confident that they will be able to create a more substantial burger specimen by growing them on spherical surfaces.  One day, they envision being able to create slabs of stem cell-created beef.

Another problem is the appearance.  Blood is what gives the average hamburger the familiar color everyone is accustomed to.  Stem-cell burgers have no blood involved, resulting in a unsettling pink and yellow color.  They plan to use caffeine to force the cells to produce more myoglobin, a protein that is made of iron and oxygen.  Then there is taste.  The absence of fat means a pretty bland burger, so scientists are working to try develop a way to grow fat from stem cells as well.

According to Post, one single cow could create one million times as many burgers than the usual process.  However, they need more resources.  Post estimates that being able to create stem cell burgers at a rate that would help the meat shortage problem is still 10 to 20 years in the future.