Burgers Made in the Lab

in vitro burger

Would you eat a burger that was made in a laboratory? (Photo credit: POOL/Reuters/Corbis)

A burger patty made in a laboratory sounds like something out of a science fiction novel. However, fiction became fact last month when Dr. Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands unveiled the first hamburger patty made from stem cells for a taste-test event held in London, England.

The burger patty took five years to develop at a cost of nearly $330,000. Though clearly still a work-in-progress, Post held the event in part to garner the interest of potential funders to help finance further research efforts in producing cultured meat. Prior to the taste-test, the until-then anonymous funder of the in vitro burger research was identified as Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

Though it may resemble a simple hamburger patty, Posts burger is actually made up of many thin strips of cultured muscle tissue. Post used stem cell techniques to grow the muscle tissue from cells gathered at a slaughterhouse from the necks of two organically-raised cows. The type of stem cells used are called myosatellite cells. These cells are used by the body to repair injured muscle tissue. Post and his colleagues grew the stem cells in a growth medium (in this research, the scientists used fetal calf serum as the growth medium) and then poured the cells out onto a petri dish. Reducing the nutrients in the growth medium caused the stressed stem cells to differentiate into muscle cells. These cells in turn merged together to form simple muscle fibers. When placed onto a protein substrate, the muscle fibers developed into contractile elements. The scientists then added anchor points so that the tissues could attach to something and develop tension. These anchor points resulted in thin strips of tissue, about half an inch long and 1/25 of an inch in diameter.

The single 140-gram (5-ounce) patty produced for the taste-test event was made up of 20,000 of these tissue strands. To make the patty appear more like ground beef, the scientists colored it with red beet juice and saffron to give it a more realistic red raw-beef color. (Straight from the lab, the tissue has more of a yellowish tinge to it.) To prepare the burger for the taste test, the researchers only used salt, pepper, egg powder, and breadcrumbs so as to not mask its flavor. Two taste-testers each tasted the single burger. Though served on a bun with slices of tomato, both testers opted to eat the burger plain. One of the testers described the taste of the burger as somewhere between not bad, okay, and decent. The taste-testers remarked that the texture was similar to that of a real meat patty, but, due to the lack of fat, the taste of the burger wasn’t quite right.

Though this first in vitro burger may not win any awards for taste, its development does show that creating a burger in a lab and not on the farm is possible. Because Posts method requires a constant supply of cow muscle cells as a source of new stem cells, it is not considered to be a truly “animal-free” burger; however, researchers at other universities are looking into sourcing stem cells that could reproduce indefinitely. Researchers are also looking into alternatives to the fetal calf serum currently used as a growth medium for the cells.

More to Explore
Biting Into the First In Vitro Burger
Building a $325,000 Burger
Taste Test: Lab-Grown Hamburger Short on Flavor
New Harvest

Comments

  1. I think it is very cool

  2. Destiny White says:

    Interesting how it took five years to make a burger, however this was a very interesting article. Perhaps in the future we will make burgers in labs to prevent diseases that cows can sometimes give humans. (But hopefully it will taste the same as a notmal burger.) Who knows what we could do with stem cells next? Technology is truly amazing!

    • Chris Nation says:

      I agree that its interesting that it took 5 years to make, but what really amazes me is that it cost nearly $330,000!

      • Caroline Cassetty says:

        Agreed i can’t believe they spent that much money on it! Especially since the economy isn’t doing to well. Maybe it isn’t the highest priority right now. It would be a good invention, but is it worth all the time and money for a patty?!

        • Samantha Preece says:

          I agree as while! With the economy the way it is why are we spending $330,000 on a patty? Our priorities are way out of place.

      • Max Faust says:

        So true. Why would you use so much money for this when it could be going to something better.

    • I have a much higher concern that their steak should taste as good as the real thing. It is still pretty cool though.

  3. Chris Nation says:

    This is an interesting idea. I wonder what made the scientist want to create a burger from stem cells though?

  4. This is probably the next step in the way humans consume meat because sooner or later there probably will not be enough cows to feed our need for steak. The cost should not be a problem in the future since a computer used to be the most expensive thing around, and many can see how that changed so quickly with growing technology.

  5. George Schroeder says:

    It seems like these scientists spent a lot of time and money on one 5 ounce patty. I do not think I would want to be the one tasting it considering it turned out yellow.

  6. But why? Why is it desirable to create “burgers” in a laboratory rather than on a farm?

    • Aline Stroud says:

      That’s my question. I mean shouldn’t they be spending their money on better things? Then again, that’s just my opinion.

  7. Caroline Cassetty says:

    I never would have guessed scientists were trying to make a burger in a lab. I think that adding the color to the patty to make it look more like ground beef was a great idea. People probably wouldn’t eat it if it was yellow. If they could get the taste right it would be a great invention.

  8. I think the idea of a burger that has no fat in it is a great idea. As a person who has a certain dislike of fatty meat (steak) i would love to try meat without fat. The only problem is that it would take 5 years to prepare……… Life has its ups and downs.

    • Kristen Gregory says:

      i agree i am not a fan of fatty meats and i think this would be a great thing if it was not so expensive and took so long to make.

    • Don Zepecki says:

      Agreed. and with there being no fat and a lesser taste, I imagine that would cut down on all say snacking, because it wouldn’t be as enjoyable.

    • I think the burger is good and bad. It’s good that it has no fat and and people won’t snack as much, but the fact that it costs so much and it takes so long to make it…its just not worth it. People should just stick to eating something healthier that they can afford on a regular basis.

  9. Myla Schafer says:

    Thats a crazy expensive and long process for a burger patty, but its cool they could make it out of stem cells. Personally, i dont think i would be up for the job of tast testing it.

  10. Samantha Preece says:

    That’s really cool how they were able to make a patty from stem cells. Just an outrageous price and time period to get to this point…

  11. Jordan Hayes says:

    I hope this experiment and prototype proves to be useful. They put in a lot of work just for a burger.

  12. Spencer S. Sanders says:

    Wow this article is very interesting, I never would have thought it was possible to make a burger patty in a lab. However, in my opinion the experiment took way too much money.

  13. Aline Stroud says:

    In my opinion, the time and money it took to develop that patty is ridiculous! Also, if it was quoted to just being decent, then I believe it was a waste. Can we just stick to the farm?

  14. Kristen Gregory says:

    Its amazing to think that scientist spent 5 years and nearly $330,000 dollars to make a hamburger patty out of stem cells. That sounds like an expensive hamburger! Although, this is an amazing development i think ill stick to my normal $4 burger.

  15. Don Zepecki says:

    Cool, but the production time for this meat, just as well as the cost really causes a draw back.

    • Dawson Hutcherson says:

      Exactly what I was thinking, more of a waste of time then anything else.

    • Rob Donatucci says:

      Exactly. Especially since there has to be markup when the burger is put into stores… Yeah, I don’t wanna have to wait five years and pay like $500,000 for my burger.

  16. Lindsey Campbell says:

    I can’t believe it took 5 years to make and that it was that expensive! $330,000 to make something like that is ridiculous!

    • kaylie denney says:

      Thats alot of money spent on something thats so strange. I mean its cool that they could actually make it, but who honestly would eat one? because i know i wouldnt..

    • Logan Augspurger says:

      I totally agree. I do not think it is that important to pay that kind of money for this kind of experiment

  17. JoRya Cornett says:

    Burgers made in a lab sounds extremely weird but definitely amazing!

  18. Mikki Davis says:

    I guess it’s pretty cool that we have the technology to do this but what exactly is the functionality of this patty when we have an abundance of cows? The only use I can see for it is for stem cell research to be used for other things.

  19. Austin Kirby says:

    Honestly cost outweighs reward in this to me.

  20. Rachel Howard says:

    This article is both fascinating and disturbing at the same time. Could you imagine buying one hamburger for $330,000?

    • Anthony Heggie says:

      Yeah, and what amazes me, is out of all the things they could be doing, they are being used to create hamburgers in a lab! Just imagine what else they can make, and maybe bring the cost down a little..

  21. Ben Colakovic says:

    This article was interesting, but also weird. I also would not spend that much on a hamburger.

  22. Logan Augspurger says:

    Veryn interesting article. I had no idea that it would cost $330,000. I am also amazed that burgers can be made in a lab.

  23. Dawson Hutcherson says:

    I love how were spending our time in the lab making a burger. We are definitely in the 21st century. Still pretty cool how they made one the way they did though. Murica

  24. Brad Deason says:

    I’m very astounded by the length of time it took to develop this patty, and also the cost of this. . .$330,000 is a quite a bit of money, especially just for one patty.

  25. Melissa Kelly says:

    ‘Lab Grown Burgers’ does not exactly sound like a good meal to start with.

  26. Heidy Orellana says:

    In my opinion I don’t think that all the time any money is worth a burger grown in a lab. What is the point is it can’t be produce in a fast rate and in a large supply, so it can help with world hunger or something.

  27. Heidy Orellana says:

    *and *if

  28. Carly Waller says:

    The fact that the burger has taken 5 years to prepare… I don’t know about you, but that makes me loose my appetite. There is no gain in the experiment. Cost outweighs the benefits.

  29. Rob Donatucci says:

    $330,000 for one burger patty…

    .____.

  30. Emma Brown says:

    Interesting how is took five years to develop and that much money fro a hamburger!

  31. Jordyn Henderson says:

    It’s weird to think that it took $330,000 to make a hamburger pattie!

  32. Andy Scates says:

    it is dumbfounding that 20,000 tissue cells are in a single pattie

  33. Newton Welch says:

    That must be one tasty burger to take 5 years, 330k$, and 20k tissues to make! It sounds pretty weird eating a burger made like that though, it sounds kind of disgusting.

  34. Newton Welch says:

    I would not want to eat that kind of burger either, it sounds to unnatural for me. I guess it is weird because it is called strange biology lol. And i do not wanna wait 5 years at McDonalds either.

  35. Dalton Snyder says:

    While it is in fact, a “science fiction” idea, I’m quite fond of it. It makes the process of making burgers or other meat so much more human, efficient, and most importantly, more renewable, though I would debate that it isn’t a very appealing idea and could be debated ethically, despite the lack if killing in the process.

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