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World's most expensive burger, grown in lab, costs $345,000

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Edible, lab-grown fake meat is only a year away, says a scientist who is growing it from stem cells.

The previous record-holder for "world's most expensive burger" ($5,000) has nothing on the forthcoming first-ever lab-grown burger, whose creator estimates it will cost $345,000, reports Reuters.

This so-called "in vitro" meat (which means, in essence, it was grown in a petri dish) is one of those rare breakthroughs that could smash our dependence on cruel CAFO feedlots, wasteful industrial agriculture practices and even farms themselves, allowing engineers to grow our protein under controlled conditions, anywhere in the world -- including in the cities where most of us live.

Mark Post, a biologist at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, says he believes he can create the world's first proof-of-concept burger within a year. Post and other scientists have been pursuing the holy grail of lab-grown meat -- something humans would find palatable to eat -- since at least the 1990's.

The key is starting with stem cells -- the same kind of pluripotent cells medical scientists hope to use to cure disease -- and growing them into small strips of muscle tissue. Throw together enough of them, about 3,000, add in some artificial fat and, mmmm, are you getting hungry yet?

Even if Post succeeds in creating a "fake burger," it will take some kind of branding genius to get over the "yuck" factor. That's why a collection of designers has already begun thinking about how to re-brand fake meat in order to accentuate the positive -- eco-friendliness, no animal slaughter -- and make us all forget that it was grown in a dark room in a bath of nutrients that probably smell like the planet Dagobah.

Photo: D. Sharon Pruitt

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Christopher Mims

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Christopher Mims has written for Scientific American, WIRED, Popular Science, Fast Company, Good, Discover, Slate, Technology Review, Nature and the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University. Formerly, he was an editor at Scientific American, Grist and Seed. He is based in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure