Lab-grown meat gets closer to reality

You see that whitish stuff in the petri dish? That, my dears, is lab-grown meat. Meat made without all the physical, environmental, and ethical mess that goes along with raising actual animals for food.

The little tabs on either end of each piece of meat are Velcro, used to stretch and "exercise" the muscle cells that make up this lab meat. (Some earlier attempts at growing meat in the lab failed because, without exercise, muscle tissue isn't something that's particularly palatable.) It's white because there's no blood running through it. And, to create food, you'd have to combine this single layer of muscle tissue with thousands of other layers of muscle and lab-grown fat.

Dutch biologist Mark Post, the man behind the meat, thinks that he can build the world's first lab-grown burger within a year for a cost of $345,000.

You can read the full story in an article by Reuters' Kate Kelland

Image: Francois Lenoir / Reuters


    1. I give it about a week before a virus takes hold and turns vatmeat to inedible sludge.

      Or champagne, Roquefort, fougasse, etc.

    1. I looked at your link and Gates later on said “What’s really necessary? Geometry? No, probably not” Yes!!! give him plastic burger number one let him learn Pi the hard way.

  1. I’m not eating that!  Not for a thousandth of the price!  The moral and financial dilemma is exacerbated by…wait…how does it taste?  Is it crunchable?  Is it tasty?

    Sure 345K seems dear for the first one…but how about the millionth?  A burger for $3.50 that wont gag or sicken unto death might be a irresistible price point.  Still feels not quite right somehow…

    Then again. . .test tube filet wouldn’t be…couldn’t be…worse than some things I’ve eaten:  fermented bean paste comes to mind…

      1. Since a switch to vat meat will happen over night–surprising everyone– the farm animals will starve en masse of course.  Or they’ll have to be released–millions of them–to ravage the cities!

        Or…just maybe…it would be a naturally-phased reduction of their numbers as slowly decreasing costs/increasing acceptance of the new tech bring about reduced demand for factory farmed animals over time.

  2. At last, waited over thirty years for this announcement…

    (seriously, the idea fascinated me as a kid for some reason).

  3. It was done once with fish, now beef is coming along. If they can get the price down, this could really be a fantastic thing.

    And end to those giant lakes toxic of pink goo at pig farms for a start.

  4. Tell you what, I’ll have a lab grown steak when it is served at the Hover Outback that has ample jet pack parking.

  5. How about if instead of growing artificial meat in a petri dish we’d just try to raise and kill animals in a way that isn’t cruel and heartless?
    Oh, I forgot. There’s not enough profit in that for the greedy. My fault, carry on on your way to soylent green.

      1. Buddy, I’m not so naive to think I could have a steak without killing animals
        As a start we could try to kill them on site, not hauling them hundreds or even thousand of miles. We could make sure they’re really dead before we process them, and of course that they die fast and without much stress and pain. If you’ve ever seen a cow that hasn’t properly been killed and twitches in pain and terror before it gets cut in two halves, you’ll know what i mean.

        1. We can ballroom dance with semantics, or we can go on and discuss exactly how we can ‘kill’ without being ‘cruel and heartless’.

    1. Soylent green is a good idea. Processing ex-humans for their meat is much more ethical than killing living animals to feed our desire for steak (Steak is so yummy though. If God didn’t want us to eat cows, he wouldn’t have made them so delicious, slow and stupid.)

  6. Lab meat closer to “reality”?

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means

    1. Obviously you’re not familiar with the process for creating lab meat.  The nutritional equations are very complex and involve imaginary numbers.

  7. Um, I’d want to see an assay of the fatty acids in the meat before I considered consuming it.  Too many PUFAs, and it’s a non-starter.    That’s assuming that there’s enough fat in the meat to make it worthwhile.  Personally, I really like a 75/25 grind.

  8. And how much oil power based calories are going in to make a single vat burger in comparison to a farm raised cattle burger? Or better yet a good grass fed cattle burger where most the calories to make the meat come from the sun?

    1. That’s not really a good argument.  How many acres of food could have been grown on the land that those cattle grazed on?  If you are simply looking at it from an efficiency standpoint raising any livestock is a loosing battle compared to growing grains and vegetables.

      1. Lets see, my in-laws 1/4 section farm in a 4A climate zone raises a 20 head beef herd exclusively grass/hay feed without chemicals and fertilizer and  yearly has 4-8 two year old steers go to market with an average hanging weight of 200lbs per side selling at $4.25/lb So tell me how much calories in plant crops can they grow instead and what would be their income per acre?

        1. This isn’t a matter of specifics. Meat production will always take a (major) backseat to crop production in efficiency. It’s just the laws of physics.

        2. Alright fine:

          1/4 section = 160 acres

          assuming 8 steers per year at 200lbs per side (so x2) = 3200lbs of beef at 4.25/lb = $13,600

          If the same 160 acres was planted in potatoes and farmed organically you would have roughly: 130 cwt/acre yield, so 20,800 cwt.   With an average going price around $7/cwt would give you $145,600

          Or you could plant 160 acres of wheat.  Around 50 bushels/acre = 8000 bushels and at $6 per bushel would give you $48,000

          Now neither of those take in to account the machinery, supplies, or help needed to plant and harvest the fields.  So I will give you that raising cows would require much less overhead.

          Now in terms of food produced and calories:  That 3200lbs of beef would yield roughly 4.25 million calories.  One acre of potatoes alone would give you 5.4 million calories/acre.  Obviously a potato lacks protein, but in terms of being able to feed people as colinaut implied, plants win over animals.

          1. No arguing with your analysis.  But you’re leaving out the fact that your plan requires the consumption of potatoes or wheat.  Bleah.  In terms of calories, the beef wins over the uneaten potatoes and wheat.

          2. In terms of calories, the beef wins over the uneaten potatoes and wheat.

            Well, you have to have french fries and a bun to go with your hamburger, right?

          3. And if it was the prairies they would indeed be growing wheat like everyone else despite the need for buying seed every spring, fertilizers, pesticides, equipment and so forth. But no one in their region grows wheat for a reason. Less than 100 days growing season on average. First frost is the first week of September(snowed on our wedding weekend) last frost mid May. 
            Cows just let them roam the fields, eat and breed. You can actually increase the yield of meat  if you take more active interventions like artificial insemination, growth hormones, feed supplement, antibiotics, shooting of wildlife as others do. Plant crops are only efficient in a narrow range of climates and land types and even then we resource subsidize them so to speak to get those modern yields.

          4. I think you left out the part where with proper crop rotation (possibly including an animal rotation to fertilize/till (or to glean and eat what would otherwise be carted off for silage anyway)) you can draw three crops a year if the weather cooperates.  Your figures are too low, even for a “sustainable” “organic” farm (apply other widely misinterpreted buzz words here).

      2. There are acres in which the only thing that will grow decently are grasses. Cows turn that inedible grass into food.

        1. About those areas where the only thing that grows is grass, let’s put the suburbs out there.  I’ve never understood why we encourage people to congregate and settle in the fertile river valleys and deltas when they’re just going to spend 22 hours a day inside their houses/cars/workplaces anyway.
          Really, though, if you want to talk about efficiency, put goats (or a hardier breed of sheep) on the scrub land.  More meat per unit grass consumed, anyway (and if you don’t like them, you’re cooking them wrong!).  Any place that can grow proper “grasses” can handle many of our hardier crops that you use all the time but don’t think about.  You can dry-land sunflowers for their oil anywhere that “grass” will grow.  Alfalfa?  That’s a pretty valuable grass.  Aren’t wheat & rye & all the other cereal grains just “grasses” with peculiar habits?

      3. Not if you farm the way people used to. Leaving fields fallow, rotating crops and moving animals through pastures. Maybe it’s not the farming that’s the problem, but the demand we’re placing on it.

  9. Sadly enough, once I saw this article, this particular ditty popped into my mind – and it scares me.

  10. Seriously, I’m almost as excited about vat meat as I am about stem cell research and gene therapy. All are novel, relatively new ways of manipulating organic matter, and all have the potential to really improve a lot of lives in pretty significant ways.

    1. Imagine having lengths of bacon growing in your kitchen like vines!

      Yesterday evening my 8-year-old was saying she wished we had a bacon tree. She likes some meat, but is conflicted about the idea of killing animals to get it. Ethically, I’m OK with the idea of vat-grown meat. Nutritionally and aesthetically, I’m not so sure how I feel about it.

  11. I don’t understand why people are grossed out by the idea of lab-grown meat. Muscle tissue is muscle tissue. Factory farms are doing their best to make cows/pigs/chickens into automated meat-producing units anyway. Why not just take it to its logical conclusion, and reduce the suffering involved? Plus, a clean industrial lab setting beats a filthy meat-processing plant.

    I guess people are afraid of standardized, boring, bland meat? Unless you eat only local, small-farm, free-range, grass-fed, organically produced meat (in which case, you’re probably a food writer for the NYT), you’re getting a standardized, bland product anyway.

    I also love the idea of lab-created gemstones — I was much more excited about my lab-created sapphire engagement ring than I would have been if it were regular mined sapphires. I mean, how awesome is it that we can reproduce the heat and pressure of the earth to create gemstones in a lab? Why not just skip the whole dangerous, environmentally damaging, and sometimes unbearably cruel process of digging the sparkly stones out of the ground, and just make them in a place where they’re easily accessible in the first place? Especially since that makes them a lot more affordable?

    But with gemstones, it’s a clash of ideas about whether it’s a pretty sparkly stone, or solidified salary. With meat, I don’t really know where the clash of ideas comes from. Unless people are viewing meat as some kind of proof that they’re powerful enough to kill things, so lab-grown meat would take away their power? That seems like a stretch. So what is it?

    (N.B. I’m not a vegetarian.)

  12. Curious about the “ethical” statement. My understanding is that it requires calf serum to grow muscle cells outside the body. This is the embryonic fluid the calf floats in as it is developing. You kill one calf for about a quart. You probably have to kill a dozen or more calves for for that bite of meat. If your ethical concern is killing cows then this is probably not the answer you are looking for.

    That said, I love new and mysterious meat! I want a bite.

  13. This and vertical farming are exemplary of our obsession with technical fixes instead of common sense. It’s been well established that the only sustainable methods of agriculture integrate animals into crop raising, particularly in perennial polycultures. Agriculture without animals is not sustainable and not healthy. Animals are required to build topsoil and provide fertilizer. Note that only after chemical farming was introduced were animals removed from the landscape (and herded into execrable CAFO’s). But don’t take my word for it, please see the work of Joel Salatin in the U.S. and Allan Savory in Africa, or read books by Colin Tudge or Lierre Keith. So, instead of reforming our agricultural system, which in its pressent incarnation is destroying our environment, we will spend $350,000 on growing meat in a vat. This is insane. We need to spend money first on foremost on reforming our methods of farming, including wresting control from agribusiness. I’m not against this research, but let’s get our priorities straight. We don’t need more technology, we need to implement what pioneers like the ones I listed above already know how to do. That means real reform of our systems. I’ve made this point with energy too – we already know how to produce the energy we need more sustainably, the economics are what is preventing it. Without reform, new technology will change nothing.

  14. No e coli?  No mad cow disease?  No animals raised in quarters so tight they can’t turn around? 

    No urine and blood soaked slaughter-house floors?


  15. It’s Sunday morning and after mowing the lawn Bob deposits a few scoops of clippings from the mower bag into the detachable bin he placed beside the door.

    As he enters the kitchen Bob hands the bin to Sally along with a quick peck on the cheek.  Then, the man-work done, it’s off to his Sunday paper! 

    Sally places the bin on top of the Mr. Meat(tm) Deluxe and taps a button on its face.  The grinder is so quiet she presses her ear close to be sure it’s on!

    Next, up lifts the plastic reservoir lid and in goes a quart of ambio-tech fluid(tm) followed by a pouch of flavor-stemcells(tm) (Lamb tonight, dear?) from the box in the cabinet above the modern stove. 

    Closing the lid Sally sets the timer for 6 hours.  That should leave plenty of time to drain, scrape, shape and cook.   Now for a well deserved cup of tea and the latest fashion magazine.  Who says a woman’s work is never done!

    As she takes a final look through the sidewall Sally may not be able to see the 14 aggregation rails in the cloudy liquid but she knows they’re there–and so do we!  Expanding and contracting as the first film of cells begin to attach.   Just like the ever expanding, contracting pulse of technology as it marches ahead in this wonderful, brave new world! 

    Good job, Sally and Bob!  Good job indeed!

    1. >> great cuz people don’t eat enough processed shit to begin with…

      Yeah, meat from animals laced up with  hormones and anti-biotics is MUCH better than meat grown in a controlled, disease free environment.

      Both are “processed”.  One just involves a lot less interaction with feces, bacteria and blood.

  16. I know that this is rather a nit-picky thing: but the thing pictured isn’t a petri dish, it’s the right most 2 wells of a 6 well tissue culture dish. Petri dishes have media in them for growing bacteria. To grow tissue (even in similarly shaped dishes, which are usually 10cm in diameter), the dishes or plates are coated with something.   

    Also, I’m curious if there are any animal products being used in this. What’s the sense of growing lab based meat if you need to have FBS (fetal bovine serum) in the media anyhow. 

    1. Eventually the hope is to avoid FBS completely.

      From an article in Discover (

      “For cells to mature, they must soak in a nutrient-rich soup. The current soup—costly “fetal bovine serum,” or calf’s blood—may soon be replaced by an inexpensive, plant-based substitute that offers a major advantage: It avoids using any animal-based products, satisfying the ethical concerns of some vegetarians.”

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