A team of scientists from Maastricht university will be in London on Monday to present and eat a hamburger made from meat grown in Petri dishes in their lab.
Dr Mark Post and his team began by extracting stem cells from a biopsy of a cow. They then grew 20,000 muscle fibres over the course of three months. Each tiny, hoop-like fibre grew in an individual culture well, suspended in a growth medium.
When they were ready, the fibres were removed individually by hand, cut open and straightened out. All the fibres were pressed together to form the hamburger.
The total cost of the project so far is €250,000.
On Monday afternoon, Post plans to eat the hamburger in front of reporters via a livestream event on the internet.
‘Cows are very inefficient,’ Post told British newspaper the Guardian. ‘We need to feed cows a lot so we can feed ourselves. Cultured meat will be more efficient.’
Currently, 30% of the Earth’s useable surface is covered by pasture for animals. With the human population predicted to rise to 9.5 billion by 2060, the market in meat is expected to double. This would mean more emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane, and far less space for growing arable crops.
Post said his cultured beef is still undergoing a lifecycle analysis to work out its overall environmental impacts, but early indications are his lab meat will reduce the need for land and water by 90% and cut overall energy use by 70%.