A lab-made hamburger may make its culinary debut in London sometime this month, giving the world a first taste of what could be the future of meat. The burger, genetically engineered by University Maastricht scientist Dr. Mark Post, is made from thousands of tiny pieces of meat grown in-vitro and held together by salt.
Post uses tendons from fetal calves to grow the meat and, in a lengthy, expensive process, puts them together to form a hamburger patty. Meat created this way could have a significant impact on the environment and on health -- lab-made burgers use much less energy, and if they could be mass produced, in-vitro meat could reduce the global herd. Genetically engineered meat is also cruelty free -- Post's eventual goal is to create burgers without using any meat at all.
But will people eat meat made in a lab? The burgers don't have the exact appearance, flavor, or texture of actual meat yet, and even if they did, consumers would still have to make a decision about whether the products were "real." How might anti-G.M.O. advocates feel about lab-made meat? Is genetically engineered food real food? How might stem cell research evolve in a way that would allow these products to be produced on a large scale and more cost effectively?
Dr. Neil Stephens, research fellow at ESRC Cesagen at Cardiff University School of Social Sciences