If you've been dreaming about sinking your teeth into a slab of lab-grown, in vitro meat, you may be in luck. According to the Independent, the time may be nigh for the world's first "Frankenburger," a beef patty grown from stem cells, to be plated and served.
The UK newspaper reported that the burger, the brainchild of Mark Post, a medical physiologist at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, will be served at an "exclusive west London venue" next week before an invited audience. The location and invitees were not revealed.
Costing more than $300,000, the burger -- created with thousands of thin strips of cultured muscle tissue and funded by an anonymous donor -- is said to be the "most expensive beefburger in history," according to the Independent.
As the New York Times reported recently, Post has been working on this 5-ounce lab-grown beef patty for quite some time. Post says he hopes the burger will change public perceptions regarding the viability and palatability of test-tube meat.
“Let’s make a proof of concept, and change the discussion from ‘this is never going to work’ to, ‘well, we actually showed that it works, but now we need to get funding and work on it,’" Post told the Times last fall, adding that the meat, despite the fact that it doesn't have any fat engineered into it, "tastes reasonably good."
In 2011, the New Yorker's Michael Specter discussed the future of "test-tube burgers," arguing that lab-grown meat is more humane, sustainable and environmentally friendly than regular meat.
"There is something inherently creepy about [growing meat in labs]," Specter told NPR's Terry Gross at the time. "But there is something more inherently creepy about the way we deal with the animals that we eat. ... They live a horrible life, and they often die quite cruelly. So the idea of being able to eliminate some of that is extremely exciting for a lot of people."
Also in 2011, a study conducted by researchers from Oxford University and the University of Amsterdam showed that production of so-called "shmeat" would require significantly less water, land and energy compared to the conventional raising and slaughtering of animals. It also concluded that greenhouse gas emissions would be slashed by up to 96 percent.
Thanks to such arguments, many environmental and animal rights groups, including the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, have been supportive of test-tube meat.
Still, though the upcoming burger presentation in London may herald the beginning of a new way of thinking about and producing meat, experts say that in vitro meat will likely not hit supermarket shelves anytime soon.
Due to the extremely expensive and difficult process, the meat has a long way to go before it can be cheaply and easily made. Figuring out safety standards will also be a challenge, as will convincing people that "shmeat" is worth eating at all.
Despite the obstacles, Post is confident that lab-grown meat is in our future.
“I see the major hurdles, probably better than anybody else,” he told the Times. “But you’ve got to have faith in technological advances, that they will be solved.”
Watch Professor Mark Post discuss lab-grown meat at the 2012 Rockefeller Foundation Innovation Forum here: