Stem Cell Meat Burgers Could Be Grown In Bioreactors

Stem Cell Meat Burgers Could Be Grown In Bioreactors

Breakthroughs in cultured meat production might enable greener food production without sacrificing burgers and steaks.

As a vegetarian, I'll occasionally hear jokes about how it's still totally okay for me to eat McDonald's burgers. "Why not?" they ask. "It's not like there's actual meat in them anyway!" While that's a slight exaggeration, in a couple of decades it may not be far-fetched. Cultured meat, food literally grown from stem cells instead of traditional farming techniques, is something scientists have been striving for since the 1930s; Winston Churchill even considered it to be an inevitable development. And before everyone starts crying "Soylent Green", science is already making cultured meat today, it's just not financially feasible to produce on a large scale. According to biologists Cor van der Weele and Johannes Tramper however, the system might work on a smaller-scale, specifically with individual bioreactors growing "meat" for 2500 people every year.

The current technique of growing meat from stem cells was introduced by Mark Post in 2013, although it wasn't exactly efficient; a single patty grown this way would cost about $385,000. Van der Wheele and Tramper's model uses bioreactors to facilitate exponential cell growth, at which point meat could be harvested, pressed, and divided into consumer-sized portions. Assuming that losses are kept to a minimum, each bioreactor would produce 25,600 kilograms of cultured meat per year, roughly equaling 10 kilograms per person for a village of 2,560. Presumably larger populations could then be served by additional bioreactors, which would have the additional benefit of creating local jobs.

Under this model, large-scale factory farms could be replaced with smaller urban farms, where companion animals are raised for donating muscle stem cells instead of slaughter. Unfortunately, cost effectiveness is still a problem. Pricing cultured meat as though it were regular meat would only earn $175,360 per bioreactor. Now consider that each reactor requires at least three technicians for the year, not to mention any operational costs that may build up. Unless the price of meat goes up we probably won't see cultured meat produced quite this way, but it is a model that could be improved upon in future generations.

What do you think? Is cultured meat something that will never take hold? Or will I be meeting friends for McDonald's burgers in the near future?

Source: Trends in Biotechnology, via io9

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I've always liked the idea of lab-grown meat; I do sympathize with animals, but not enough to stop eating meat...this kills two birds with one stone (minus the part about killing birds, of course). I'm sure costs will go down drastically as production increases (economies of scale and all that).

But have you seen the cultured meat they have now? That stuff is disgusting...

dyre:
I've always liked the idea of lab-grown meat; I do sympathize with animals, but not enough to stop eating meat...this kills two birds with one stone (minus the part about killing birds, of course). I'm sure costs will go down drastically as production increases (economies of scale and all that).

But have you seen the cultured meat they have now? That stuff is disgusting...

Problem is, of course if meat gets expensive enough to make this sort of thing viable.. chances are.. people will not be eating enough meat. I mean, farm raised cricket burgers will probably be the new thing.

They need fetal calf/bovine serum for those growth cultures. Synthetic replacements cost a butload. Maybe there is a cheap alternative. Not one that I know of but then again I'm far from all knowing. Still without an alternative this kind of thing would kind of defeat the point.

Radical stuff

I hope to one day eat burgers made of pure science

iseko:
They need fetal calf/bovine serum for those growth cultures. Synthetic replacements cost a butload. Maybe there is a cheap alternative. Not one that I know of but then again I'm far from all knowing. Still without an alternative this kind of thing would kind of defeat the point.

The source article mentioned using muscle stem cells, which sounds like they could be extracted relatively painlessly, although it might not work on a larger scale. You'd definitely need a solid cell bank though.

There's another alternative out there, that's both environmentally friendly, animal friendlier and financially viable.

Maggots.

There's a certain species of Icelandic fly that'll eat just about anything. And all that food is converted straight into maggot-offspring. Unlike most animals we eat where only a relatively small part of the animal is fit for human consumption almost the entire maggot is pure easily digestible protein. You can keep these flies in a tank, feed them with all your biological waste and they'll breed a constant supply of edible maggots.

Only problem, they're maggots. Would you eat them?

Oh my God...Shadowrun is becoming reality more and more each year.
This is how the soy-line starts.

Now I'm just waiting on the Shiawase Decision....oh wait, that kinda already exists in Disneyland.

iseko:
They need fetal calf/bovine serum for those growth cultures. Synthetic replacements cost a butload. Maybe there is a cheap alternative. Not one that I know of but then again I'm far from all knowing. Still without an alternative this kind of thing would kind of defeat the point.

All this really means is that we need to do more research into the area. There was a point in time when Aluminum was more expensive was gold and royalty ate on aluminum plates as a status symbol. Now thanks to refining/processing techniques for the ore we now have Reynolds wrap aluminum foil that we throw away with out even thinking about it.

At the end of the day the two expensive argument is the worst argument when it comes to deciding if you should pursue research in a particular ares of study.

Fanghawk:

iseko:
They need fetal calf/bovine serum for those growth cultures. Synthetic replacements cost a butload. Maybe there is a cheap alternative. Not one that I know of but then again I'm far from all knowing. Still without an alternative this kind of thing would kind of defeat the point.

The source article mentioned using muscle stem cells, which sounds like they could be extracted relatively painlessly, although it might not work on a larger scale. You'd definitely need a solid cell bank though.

eum true but not what I mean. The cells are cultured in a liquid growth medium. They add fetal calf/bovine serum to it. To the growth medium. As in serum extracted from their blood. And you need a lot of it for a bioreactor. Tapping a cow every few weeks for a bit of its blood, extract serum (and optionally put the blood cells back) is not what they do today. Kill the cow, take all its blood, extract the serum. That is what they do.

synobal:

iseko:
They need fetal calf/bovine serum for those growth cultures. Synthetic replacements cost a butload. Maybe there is a cheap alternative. Not one that I know of but then again I'm far from all knowing. Still without an alternative this kind of thing would kind of defeat the point.

All this really means is that we need to do more research into the area. There was a point in time when Aluminum was more expensive was gold and royalty ate on aluminum plates as a status symbol. Now thanks to refining/processing techniques for the ore we now have Reynolds wrap aluminum foil that we throw away with out even thinking about it.

At the end of the day the two expensive argument is the worst argument when it comes to deciding if you should pursue research in a particular ares of study.

Yea I'm with you there. Easier said then done though. They never had a REAL incentive op to now but it has been researched already. Nothing cost effective yet.

Fanghawk:
Presumably larger populations could then be served by additional bioreactors, which would have the additional benefit of creating local

Pardon me, but is that how the sentence is supposed to

...

Sorry. I make plenty of typos myself. I shouldn't jab. But I just can't help it.

Unless you can also culture fatty tissue, that's going to be some flavorless meat.

Having said that, I'd rather have a future where vat-grown meat is the norm, as opposed to whatever events allowed Transmetropolitan to have such questionable cuisine decisions (monkey burger, long pig, etc.)

EiMitch:

Fanghawk:
Presumably larger populations could then be served by additional bioreactors, which would have the additional benefit of creating local

Pardon me, but is that how the sentence is supposed to

...

Sorry. I make plenty of typos myself. I shouldn't jab. But I just can't help it.

Quite all right. Thanks for pointing it out.

Hagi:
Only problem, they're maggots. Would you eat them?

history has proven that with enough abstraction, most humans will eat ANYTHING

shape it into a patty and put it on a bun, they don't want to think about where it came from ;)

As long as it tastes just as good as the real thing. Then fine, I'll give it a shot. But if it doesn't, I'll still go real.

I'm of the opinion that the food chain is natural. The notion that we, as evolved predators, should feel bad for our prey is ridiculous. Now, as social beings we can be conscious about avoiding suffering, but the chain is there for a reason. It's not like a hungry lion would think twice about nibbling on my gibblets.

I have a feeling I'll be eating rat burgers from a roadside grill before genetically grown meat becomes something I find in the frozen food aisle and in restaurants.

Well it can't be worse than the pink slime that is used for filler already.

ITS PEOPLE! CULTURED MEAT IS PEOPLE!!!!

This seems like one of those things that is only aimed at people willing to pay a lot of money to eat suffering free meat.
You know, people that think everything should live forever because when you ask them whats the minimum amount of suffering permitted they respond with "killing the animals for food is just too cruel". You know, the people that don't think plants deserve to live.

captcha: Skynet knows
yep, and this is why skynet will beat us, because we are this stupid.

I'm all for this if it ever reaches a reasonable price. This could be just another answer to provide an ever expanding source of food for an ever expanding population. My only concern is that they would need a way to make it fatty. Not just because of taste, but because humans die without a sufficient amount of fat intake. It's a necessary macronutrient that no human can exist without. I don't foresee this being an end all of food problems. Also, I doubt whether this kind of thing would ever be viable in countries where food production is an issue. In the US, we have a food surplus, but we are a fully developed nation.

So we will all eat parts of the same cow and it will never die.

If the calorie input for calorie output ratio is good, this could be a good idea. Especially cows are incredibly inefficient.

I wonder if it'll be more efficient than insects though.

snekadid:
You know, the people that don't think plants deserve to live.

Not all plants need to be killed to be consumed and most rely on being consumed by animals as part of their reproductive cycle.

I'd like to distinguish that having an animal free diet doesn't implicitly make you some insufferable c-bomb, I accept that animals eat other animals as a part of life. Personally, I abstain from eating animals because they are full of gore and feces.

Hagi:
There's another alternative out there, that's both environmentally friendly, animal friendlier and financially viable.

Maggots.

There's a certain species of Icelandic fly that'll eat just about anything. And all that food is converted straight into maggot-offspring. Unlike most animals we eat where only a relatively small part of the animal is fit for human consumption almost the entire maggot is pure easily digestible protein. You can keep these flies in a tank, feed them with all your biological waste and they'll breed a constant supply of edible maggots.

Only problem, they're maggots. Would you eat them?

I wouldn't eat them as maggots, but if you blended them up and made a burger out of it I would give it a try. If It tasted alright with some sauce and was fairly cheap, it could probably replace my current microwave burger supply.

I don't know about the near future but I look forward to eating cultured meat burgers before I get into what is currently considered my retirement years.

If it tastes the same I'd make the switch. Though I doubt they'd be able to actually have fat grown along sides the meat and not overpower it.

Chicken would probably be the easiest to do and also be a safer option compared to the salmonella infested birds we eat now.

It would be pretty awesome to basically have a meat compartment in your home where you just add glucose and heat and the cells grow. Just open it and cut off what you're going to have for dinner.

But without all the suffering, the meat won't taste as good. That's where all the flavor comes from. The suffering really brings out the murder flavor. Yummy!

Seriously, though, I don't know. As someone else said, it really depends on if it tastes as good. Taste is king. If this meat tastes bland, no one would choose to eat it. Especially if it is more expensive. While I will tell you that proper quality spices are more important than the quality of the meat, no amount of spice will make tasteless food taste good. Unless you really like the taste of Pepper and Oregano.

Did anyone else get "Wonderful Cuisine Options" as their captcha?

YES! Getting closer to our science burgers. What a tasty future it will be.

Good. we need to grow mean instead of do it the sluaghterhouse way. we will also be able to grow clean meant (no antibiotics, diseases, ect) so it will actually be healthier than what low grade meat we get in burgers now.

Of course the biggest problem here is to overcome the fanatic zeal of "omg its lab meant so it must be bad" idiots. There is always people who oppose such things, just look at GMO product crusades. But if we get past that we will have a better food economy.

BigTuk:
Problem is, of course if meat gets expensive enough to make this sort of thing viable.. chances are.. people will not be eating enough meat. I mean, farm raised cricket burgers will probably be the new thing.

hopefully at that point biogrown meant will be relatively cheap.

Hagi:

Maggots.

Its the same kind of stigma as with eating snails. some people would vomit just at the idea, some do it regullary becuase for them its always been a normal thing. maybe one day generation will grow up that consider it normally. i know i want to be dead by then though.

Scrythe:
Unless you can also culture fatty tissue, that's going to be some flavorless meat.

Implying MCDonalds burgers meat has flavor......

Meat grown in bioreactors isn't "synthetic", it's "cultured". The cow cells inside the reactor are replicating and following their own genetic and cellular processes.

Apparently, this technology isn't ready for any commercial purposes yet. I've seen bioreactor applications in medicine, where a replacement ear or nose can be grown from a patient's own cells and grafted on to replace those destroyed by some injury or birth defect. Of course, for a person getting plastic surgery, a one-time expense of $200,000 is easier to justify than a single meat patty. Costs will need to drop, but I'm sure they will.

What's the article using as the baseline cost for real meat? Is that number the amount that the meat actually costs, or what the consumer pays after government meat subsidies? Because, expensive as meat is, it'd be far more expensive if the US government wasn't propping up the industry so average people can afford it.

BigTuk:

dyre:
I've always liked the idea of lab-grown meat; I do sympathize with animals, but not enough to stop eating meat...this kills two birds with one stone (minus the part about killing birds, of course). I'm sure costs will go down drastically as production increases (economies of scale and all that).

But have you seen the cultured meat they have now? That stuff is disgusting...

Problem is, of course if meat gets expensive enough to make this sort of thing viable.. chances are.. people will not be eating enough meat. I mean, farm raised cricket burgers will probably be the new thing.

You'd be amazed. Meat has already gone higher in price than we've ever seen it go before (I swear, it's doubled in the course of a year), and yet I'm selling people just as much meat to people as before, just with triple the complaints about the price.

 

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