Would you abandon farm-to-table in favor of lab-to-table? The term mystery meat took on a profound new meaning this week as Mark Post, chairman of physiology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands announced that he has successfully created several beef-like strip of muscle tissue in the lab using bovine stem cells.
He made this announcement during a symposium titled “The Next Agricultural Revolution” at the annual meeting of the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver, Canada. where he also said that it was possible that there could be enough lab-grown meat by fall to make a burger.
The sci-fi seeming announcement was more than just a a solution to a freakish intellectual challenge — coming up with alternatives to traditional conventional livestock production is a pressing concern to environmentalists and big ag.
The world-wide demand for meat is expected to climb 60% by 2050. The issues of factory farms are well-known — they take up huge swaths of land and use up enormous energy reserves while crowding together animals who, in those closely confined quarters, could spawn outbreaks of E.coli and other food-borne illnesses. Big Ag is looking for more efficient ways to produce large sums of meat while environmentalists are looking for more environmentally friendly ways to feed growing populations.
Making meat in a lab could use up to 40% less energy that current meat production methods. Post says that it is possible that there could be enough lab-grown meat by fall to make a single burger (Rumors to the contrary Heston Blumenthal has not agreed to cook the burger) and estimates that there could be mass production of lab meat within the next decade or two.