April 24, 2012
You wouldn’t normally expect to find a thick red steak quietly pulsating in an oversized Petri dish inside a laboratory. But such is the hype around the team scheduled to produce the world’s first lab-grown cut of meat due out this October that I can’t help but imagine it. The research being done by bioengineer Mark Post at Maastricht University in the Netherlands has provoked global headlines about “test tube meat” and fierce ethical and scientific debate. Getting access to his laboratory is about as exciting as it gets in the world of food engineering.
But when I arrive, the home of in vitro meat is quiet – no research assistants racing to turn out joints of beef, chicken or lamb. Instead, Post slowly opens the door to what looks like a large fridge, or a bioreactor. Within lie row upon row of tiny Petri dishes in which float minute fibers of almost transparent meat. I find it rather deflating but Post is excited. “I’ll need about 3,000 pellets of meat to make a hamburger,” he says.
The prospect of being able to create our own meat could herald a food revolution. Humanity’s meat consumption is projected to double in the next 40 years, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.
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