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Would You Eat a Lab Grown Hamburger?

Posted by Joan Salge Blake  August 5, 2013 03:38 PM

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Dr. Mark Post with cultured burger.  Courtesy of Maastricht University
When buying ground beef in future, you may need to not only look on the label to make sure that it is lean but you may have to also decide if you want the variety that came naturally from a cow or the one that was grown in a petri dish. 

Today in London, Professor Mark Post MD, PhD, from Maastricht University in Netherlands unveiled the first lab meat produced using stem cells from cows and grown in his lab.   The stem cells were fed protein, fat, and carbohydrates and cultivated to grow muscle meat.  For more on the process of creating cultured beef, click here.

His goal was achieved today by taking this laboratory grown muscle meat and creating a hamburger.  This is what the hamburger looks like:

Source: Masstricht University
Post has two motivations for creating lab grown meat.  According to the Next Nature Power Show lecture that he delivered, the current way we produce meat for consumption is no longer sustainable to feed the world population.  The problem lies in the inefficiency in which animals convert the protein-rich plant feed that they consume into the meat that we eat.  According to Post, for every 15 grams (about ½ ounce) of edible meat produced by the animal, it takes 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of vegetable protein-rich feed.  Not exactly good math.  The second reason is that the way we currently produce meat is not good for the environment.  According to Post, due to the large amounts of greenhouse gasses generated by the grazing animals and required during the processing of the meat, “a vegetarian in a Hummer is much more environmentally friendly than a meat eater on a bicycle.”  

While it is unlikely that a cultured burger will be in the supermarket any time soon, I think that consumer acceptance is going to be a major issue with trying to sell the public on lab grown meat.  Ironically, this unveiling is coming on the heels of the current push for genetically modified organism (GMO) labeling on foods in order to provide consumers with informed choices when shopping for dinner.   According to the Huffington Post, Connecticut has passed a GMO labeling law and New York, Maine, and Vermont are considering similar legislation. 

So the question is, would you eat meat that was grown from stem cells?  Please post your thoughts below.


Be Well, Joan


                                        Follow Joan on Twitter at:  joansalgeblake

If there is a nutrition topic you want me to blog about, feel free to email me at salge@bu.edu.



Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.
This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, is a clinical associate professor and registered dietitian at Boston University in the Nutrition Program. Joan is the author of Nutrition &You, 2nd Edition, More »

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