World’s first test-tube burger: Want ketchup with that?

The burger, made from 20,000 strips of cultured meat mixed together with lab-grown animal fat. (Photo: University of Maastricht)

The burger, made from 20,000 strips of cultured meat mixed together with lab-grown animal fat. (Photo: University of Maastricht)

LONDON — It cost more than $380,000 to develop — and doesn’t come with French fries on the side.

But the world’s first test-tube burger – grown in a laboratory from a cow’s stem cells – will be served in London next week.

The burger, made from 20,000 strips of cultured meat mixed together with lab-grown animal fat, took nine weeks to grow and cost £250,000 ($384,000) to develop. The scientist behind the project hopes that laboratory-grown meat could provide a solution to the problem of increasing global demand for meat and protein.

Mark Post, from the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, spent two years researching the initiative. “There’s no doubt it would be revolutionary in the way we produce staple food,” he said.

It takes eight to nine weeks to produce just one stem cell burger. “It depends how much resources are put into the production of cultured meat. It will always take this long for cells to multiply, but we could produce a million burgers in this time if enough resources were being spent on the production,” he said.

According to the World Health Organization, demand for meat is going to double during the next 40 years but current production methods are not sustainable. Post said the production of synthetic meat would also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and help address animal welfare problems.

Scientists believe artificial meat could be sold in supermarkets within five to 10 years. “The emphasis is on could,” Post cautioned. “Five years might be too early and 10 years sounds more realistic, if we spend a lot of resources on pushing the production of cultured meat forward.”

His research into synthetic meat has been funded by the Dutch government, as well as an anonymous donation of €300,000 ($396,000). The burger will be cooked and eaten in London next week at a yet undisclosed location in front of an audience.

“The whole presentation next week will be a proof of concept,” Post said. Of course we’re not there yet to make it an efficient and cheap product. But I want to show that it can be done so that people see: “Yes you can eat it, yes, it tastes good.’”

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