First vatburger is ready to eat

After spending $250,000 worth of anonymously donated money, Mark Post from Maastricht University is ready to go public with his first vat-grown hamburger, which will be cooked and eaten at an event in London this week. Though they claim that it's healthier than regular meat, one question not answered in the article is the Omega 3/6 balance -- crappy, corn-fed, factory-farmed meet is full of Omega 6s and avoided by many eaters; the grass-fed, free-range stuff is higher in Omega 3s.

Yet growing meat in the laboratory has proved difficult and devilishly expensive. Dr. Post, who knows as much about the subject as anybody, has repeatedly postponed the hamburger cook-off, which was originally expected to take place in November. His burger consists of about 20,000 thin strips of cultured muscle tissue. Dr. Post, who has conducted some informal taste tests, said that even without any fat, the tissue “tastes reasonably good.” For the London event he plans to add only salt and pepper.

But the meat is produced with materials — including fetal calf serum, used as a medium in which to grow the cells — that eventually would have to be replaced by similar materials of non-animal origin. And the burger was created at phenomenal cost — 250,000 euros, or about $325,000, provided by a donor who so far has remained anonymous. Large-scale manufacturing of cultured meat that could sit side-by-side with conventional meat in a supermarket and compete with it in price is at the very least a long way off.“This is still an early-stage technology,” said Neil Stephens, a social scientist at Cardiff University in Wales who has long studied the development of what is also sometimes referred to as “shmeat.” “There’s still a huge number of things they need to learn.”

There are also questions of safety — though Dr. Post and others say cultured meat should be as safe as, or safer than, conventional meat, and might even be made to be healthier — and of the consumer appeal of a product that may bear little resemblance to a thick, juicy steak.

Engineering the $325,000 Burger [Henry Fountain/New York Times]

(via /.)



  1. the idea of synthetic meat appeals to me. the conditions under which meat is grown today is…horrific…in every meaning of the word. many people know this, but we accept that it’s a necessary evil. people need to eat, and they want to eat meat. some method of making meat without the need to raise and kill an animal for it would be a welcome change for those unwilling to forgo meat altogether.

    this could allow for factory farms to be replaced with meat factories while still leaving a place for free range farms.
    the meat factories would be cleaner than the factory farms (no contamination with feces because there would BE no feces) better for the environment (no methane, no need for large amounts of antibiotics or antidepressants, may well require less water)
    and those who find the whole thing too unnatural can still go to free range farms, for those who just want meat and don’t care about how it’s made there are the meat factories.

    id also like to see this used to grow fur and skin too. this is certainly a more effective way than throwing paint on people who wear those things.

    1. Of the vegetarians, vegans and the like that I’ve asked about this topic almost all reject the notion of adding vat-grown meat to their diet.
      Seems that very few of them consider empathy as the single, central motivation to abstain from meat.
      Whilst it does often seem to be a contributing factor, the lack of murder may very well only ever be considered to be a motive to purchase when combined with improved healthiness of the product.

      1. well i wasn’t really interested in it’s appeal to vegetarians or vegans for the very reason you just cited, each vegetarian or vegan has their own reasons from healthiness of food to not liking the taste of meat to not wanting to kill certain things. this was more my feelings on it, why i welcome this.
        im not a vegetarian, i just love meat too much, but i do wish we could get rid of the factory farms, id like to see a meat solution that can allow everyone to be able to eat meat at a reasonable price without the need of factory farms (free range is nice, but not as effective, we cannot feed as many people with free range farms)

      2. as i understand it, fat is introduced separately into a matrix of synthetic mostly-muscle tissue. it seems that the healthfulness of the product can be adjusted quite a bit as well, though i’m sure there is an aesthetic trade-off.

  2. Having been vegetarian for twenty years, I find this whole enterprise hilarious. Are you meat eaters so pig-headed that you’d choose to eat Frankenstein’s entrails just to avoid walking into the vegetarian section in your local supermarket?

    1. i get that you have your solution and it works for you and that’s fine, but maybe consider the feelings of those who don’t want to live the same way? you’re vegetarian and that’s great, some people just like meat, this is a means for those people to enjoy meat without the horrible practices that come with factory farms and without the need to keep and kill animals. im happy that you have found a solution that works for you, but you need to realize it’s not for everyone.

    2. just vegetarian?

      having been vegan for three years, i find this whole condescending comment hilarious. are you milk drinkers so cow-headed that you’d choose to drink suffering-juice just to avoid drinking chalky soymilk?

      and those three years mercifully ended almost a decade ago. soymilk sucks. veggie meat mostly sucks.

      1.  But falafel and other fried chickpea foods are are awesome! says this omnivore.

        /not being sarcastic.

    3.  Meh. Me, I’m perfectly fine with eating animals. This looks like it’d taste nasty though.

  3. Since they’re still using fetal calf serum to grow the tissue, this whole thing is a meaningless stunt.  We’re no closer to either affordable or killing-free vat-grown meat than we were 20 years ago, much less than when this particular project began.

    1. “But the meat is produced with materials — including fetal calf serum,
      used as a medium in which to grow the cells — that eventually would have
      to be replaced by similar materials of non-animal origin. ”

      Uh, they acknowledged that.  To say it’s just a meaningless stunt, or that they are no closer than they were 20 years ago, sounds like hyperbole.  It’s a complicated process, and there will be many steps along the way as some aspects of it are worked out–no doubt with some elements of traditional meat production still involved as others are replaced.  They’ve taken some of those steps. There’s more to be taken.

      1. They talk about it as a “proof of concept.”  The problem is that they’re a decade late to that particular party – the Tissue Culture and Art project had artists growing and eating meat using the same processes in an art work that culminated with a meal of the meat they made in 2003.  This adds nothing to that.
        The necessity of using fetal calf serum has always been the big stumbling block that needs to be overcome to make this remotely feasible as anything other than a stunt or performance art.  And that’s the bit that no has figured out yet (and seemingly no one is any closer to figuring it out).  If they haven’t done anything other than acknowledge that that’s still an issue, they haven’t done anything useful here.

  4. Omega 3s.

    Gee, I remember way back in the  day when I was extolling the virtues of Omega 3 through fish oil and many people on Boing Boing said it was all just a bunch of “woo” and I was a fool.


    Welcome to reality… Glad to see some of you finally get on board. (cough! Cory! cough!)


    Who’s the fool full of woo, now?

    1. “Because of the risk of bleeding from omega-3 fatty acids, a qualified healthcare provider should be consulted prior to starting treatment with supplements.”

      Omega-3 blablabla. Every year there’s another theory about what’s healthy and what’s not. (EDIT: … another theory about specific ingredients being healthy)

      Just stick with a varied diet that has stood the test of time (i.e. nuts, fruits, meat, fish, go easy on the sugar/wheat/milk), and make sure to regularly withhold your body from certain ingredients just to let it know life is variable. Also excersise.

      1. Omega-3 blablabla. Every year there’s another theory about what’s healthy and what’s not.


        Omega 3’s extensive research goes back for many years. Sorry, but I’ll take the Mayo clinic’s research and evidence over your dismissive, uneducated drivel any day. Did you bother to look at the Mayo clinic link I provided or are you just going to keep your head buried in the sand?

        just stick with a varied diet that has stood the test of time (i.e. nuts, fruits, meat, fish

        I do stick with a varied diet, thanks, but I hope you don’t blindly recommend that diet to everyone. You’re a good example why those who ignore research can be a danger to themselves and others.

        Fish is not only often too expensive for many families, but in many cases it’s tainted with too much mercury and dioxin for regular consumption.

        Many species of fish should only be eaten in moderation (and some species shouldn’t be eaten hardly at all). Enteric coated fish oil with impurities removed gives you most of the benefits without the risks.

        Sources (also known as evidence if you’re into that sort of thing):

        Also excersise.

        Thanks, captain obvious.

  5. “crappy, corn-fed, factory-farmed meet is full of Omega 6s and avoided by many eaters”

    … as opposed to non-eaters?


  6. You seem to imply that meat cannot be “healthy” unless it contains a high omega-3 to omega-6 ratio while what you’re actually saying is “factory meat bad, also contains lots of omega-6″…

    I wouldn’t know about eating a synthetic burger, but that’s just because it hasn’t been tested on humans yet (and thus health claims have not been empirically verified). Not because of some chemical ratio that has been deemed to matter by career scientists. Not all science is equal.

  7. While this achievement by MAA sector’s Production, Logistics and Commissary is certainly a triumph, it could never have been accomplished without the aid of a crack team of troubleshooters, who fended off a Commie incursion at great cost.  

    Any insinuation that no such incursion took place and that missing troubleshooters simply fell into the vat is Commie propaganda and should be reported to Internal Security.

  8. It will never reach market.  The “I fear Frankenfood” hysteria will sweep it away in a wave of ignorance.

  9. I wrote a science fiction short story on this subject some years ago.  Unfortunately, I was unable to sell it when I submitted it for publication.

    The relevant part of my story involved a food production business that starts offering what the public immediately label “frankenmeat”.  It doesn’t sell well, and the company is struggling.

    In desperation, they start selling it to pet food producers, who happily start using it, since it’s cheaper (within the context of my story.)  Since labeling for pet food is more lax than it is for human food, people buy the cheaper pet food en masse, and suddenly, the “frankenmeat” company starts turning a profit.

    People take notice of this success, without realizing that the “meat” in question is being sold almost exclusively as pet food.  They think, if others are buying it, it can’t be that bad.

    Frankenmeat starts selling as human food.  Since its texture and flavor are more consistent, and since it’s cheaper, it quickly outclasses regular meat.  People stop calling it frankenmeat, and just call it meat.  So-called “real” meat is, in turn called “old meat”, when it’s referred to at all, after its production plummets dramatically.

    A process is also developed whereby cells cloned from a cow’s udder can be used to produce milk more efficiently (and cheaply) than real cows.

    Years later, “old meat” has disappeared from most peoples’ minds, and real cows are going extinct.

    All that being said, I’d love to taste that $325k burger.

  10. Yknow, for a quarter million dollars, that better be one of those burgers thats piled high with beluga and foie gras and served on an actual bun salvaged from the Titanic.

    1. Washed down with a single malt scotch salvaged from a Roman era shipwreck.

  11. I’d rather eat crappy corn feed omega 6 beef than tasteless and tough grass fed omega 3 beef any day. 

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