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Future Of The Big Mac: Implications For The World's First Lab-Grown Burger

Posted August 17, 2013 12:00 AM by CR4 Guest Author

On Monday, August 5, 2013, the world's first synthetic hamburger was tasted in London, England. The artificial slice of beef was the result of three months of laboratory work and an investment of 250 thousand Euros from Google's co-founder, Sergey Brin, who stated that he financed the project in the interest of animal welfare.


The Process

Dr. Mark Post, a physiologist at Maastricht University and the researcher behind the project, engineered the product by harvesting muscle stem cells from a cow. Over the course of three months, the stem cells were immersed in a culture of modified calf blood to develop into no fewer than 20 thousand muscle fibers. The fibers were then extracted and pressed together to create the first synthetic burger. The result was beef biologically identical to that acquired from a cow, yet entirely grown in artificial laboratory conditions.

Animal Welfare

Brin supported the development of synthetic meat in order for fewer animals to have to be bred for slaughter, releasing the statement that he was "not comfortable" with the way that farms treat livestock. The hormones with which the livestock are injected, furthermore, can become harmful to both the animals and the humans ingesting the chemicals. Brin's investment, if successful, may end up appeasing quite a few animal activists, as well as persuade some vegetarians and vegans to consider putting meat protein back into their diet.

Environmental Implications

In the last century, the earth's atmospheric temperature has risen 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit from factors like industrial development, deforestation, and the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, the latter of which is particularly detrimental because of its potency. Pollution and gas emission comes not only from cars and factories, however. A significant, yet frequently disregarded, contributor of global warming is in fact the meat industry, which is responsible for 5 percent of carbon dioxide emissions and 40 percent of methane emissions because of supporting livestock. The industry also preys on land and food resources. 30 percent of the planet's useable surface is dedicated exclusively to pastureland. In comparison, only 4 percent of the land is used to directly feed humans. Cows, furthermore, output only 15 grams of edible protein after being fed 100 grams of vegetable protein. In other words, humans must give livestock an enormous amount of food and space in return for a disproportionately small amount of meat.

If the meat industry continues to operate without restriction, it is projected to double in influence by the 2050s. By then, livestock will contribute as much as half the amount of environmental damage as all the world's vehicles and airplanes combined. However, the results of Post's research have shown that artificial meat may be key in helping to maintain the earth's natural resources. By growing meat synthetically rather than breed more animals for it, it is estimated that energy use can be reduced up to 70 percent and the need for land and water reduced up to 90 percent in the foreseeable future. With the explosion of India's population, China's rapid economic development, and the lack of stringent environmental conservation guidelines, widespread synthetic meat may just become a science fictional reality.

Editor's Note: Derek is blogging for GTL DNA, an international genetic testing company. He enjoys offering help on paternity trends, talk about new breakthroughs in DNA testing, and other topics related to genetics.

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Power-User

Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: Mono,Ontario, Canada
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#1

Re: Future Of The Big Mac: Implications For The World's First Lab-Grown Burger

08/18/2013 10:35 AM

Maybe the future but it overlooks the fact that much of beef ingested is done so because of the specific flavours in both breed and pasture ingestion-- and I do not see this in the man made meat constructive world. Pasture land is not such a bad thing as it is still far better than housing or industrial development, as it does add to the fight against both global warming and pollution, and it is visually attractive. - not a bad thing

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Popular Science - Biology - New Member

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#2

Re: Future Of The Big Mac: Implications For The World's First Lab-Grown Burger

08/18/2013 2:45 PM

From where do they expect to get all the muscle meat and calves blood needed to create enough "new meat" to make this feasible? It took 3 months to grow. How much will this cost for a burger? Has the "meat" been tested fully for any and all issues, including nutrition and contamination? I think it's time that we cut down on the "world's population". Some people breed children like insects!

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Guru

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#5
In reply to #2

Re: Future Of The Big Mac: Implications For The World's First Lab-Grown Burger

08/19/2013 12:18 PM

Yep. I've been preaching population planning for most of my adult life... well, not preaching, but inserting the idea whenever and wherever I can. With our current population, cutting down on meat consumption would help, too, which would then reorder the chain of food supplies (and others) necessary for it's production. Here's one article showing the distribution.

As far as safety and the time period needed, they'll probably diddle with growth hormone DNA keys and figure a way to go from test tube to slaughter in a much shorter period than now. Will it all be fully tested? Probably not from independent sources. We'll just have to take the creators word for it -- proprietary, you know.

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#3

Re: Future Of The Big Mac: Implications For The World's First Lab-Grown Burger

08/19/2013 8:28 AM

OK, so looking at the route of sunlight to plant to human bowel, why does it have to go through another mammal first?

Oh, and if fewer animals would be needed to produce food, wouldn't that mean fewer would be bred to do that? In what way does that improve the lot of the remaining animals? Curious minds want to know...

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#4

Re: Future Of The Big Mac: Implications For The World's First Lab-Grown Burger

08/19/2013 12:01 PM

I don't want to derail the main topic here, but this is an off-shoot, I think. (GMO is a hot topic button) High-level protein has been headed in the same general direction as other foods, since 2009, or before. (Requests/activity no doubt led to the guidelines being issued.) "Growing" meat is, most likely less practical (as pointed out by DRAGONLADY, than just engineering the animals. Here's the FDA's FAQ page about it.

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#6

Re: Future Of The Big Mac: Implications For The World's First Lab-Grown Burger

08/22/2013 4:00 AM

There will probably be a wide selection of, "Grown in formula n blood and enriched with...."

Also these,

"We take care to only feed our engineered meat with only 100% Cow blood taken only from the healthiest steed. Our cattle are monitored with an array of the best micro-fluidic analyzers in each and every cow capable of scanning over 100,000 parasites, bacteria, viruses and other threats to a clean source of blood."

"Our pre-workout lab beef is enriched with the highest levels of [_____] to give you 40% more endurance over our nearest competitor's product."

"Lucky 8 ground Tiger meat, is first lab-grown from all 6 subspecies of Tiger and two Hybrids and then ground with a [x]% of bone marrow grown from the same 8 stem cells we grew our meat from. Our customers experience 40% more stamina and vitality over our competitors due to 3rd party authentication of 100% pure-bred Tiger meat held under patent protection."

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