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A $290,000 test-tube burger: Will Monday show us the future of protein?

Posting in Environment

A man will eat a burger on Monday. What makes this unusual is that the burger patty costed $290,000 to produce -- and may represent a viable alternative to our meat consumption in the future.

In February, Dr Mark Post, head of physiology at Maastricht University, said he wished to create and consume a synthetic meat product made by extracting bovine stem cell muscle tissues and growing it in-lab.

Thousands of strands of protein have been grown from cattle stem cells before being frozen, layered and knitted together to form a "meat" patty. The meat alternative is being constructed this weekend -- and will be eaten on Monday by Post.

The cultured muscle fiber construction is the end product of years of research into viable alternatives to meat. As the global human population expands, the space required by livestock -- and the emissions produced -- have caused food producers concern.

The meat market is expected to double by the middle of the century, especially as quickly-developing populations expand. However, the land required to farm animals and the rising amount of methane gas which will infiltrate our environment has led researchers to seek other, more efficient ways to produce protein.

As traditional meat rises in price, cheaper alternatives have already hit the market -- as we all remember by Tesco's horsemeat scandal. Making expensive cultured meat production financially viable will be only one challenge faced by the team; another ia making the idea of lab-grown meat palatable to the average consumer.

Farmer Steve Conisbee says that the idea of cultured meat, at least at the moment, may be no more than a bad taste in the mouths of carnivorous consumers.

"We've got to look to science for future solutions, I'm not denying that. I'm just thinking, at the moment, is the time right? Probably not and I can't see the more affluent consumer going for it. Maybe there will always be a novelty value to it but I don't see it becoming a mainstream meat in the next decade."

Via: The Guardian

Image credit: Flickr

— By on August 3, 2013, 8:37 AM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure