$345,000 will buy you a hamburger grown in a petri dish

Meat is delicious. And it should be, since we're all natural omnivores.* But there are plenty of good reasons not to eat meat, first and foremost being that chickens and cows and piggies are cute. Meat grown in a petri dish might just be able to make everyone full and happy, as long as we can afford it: the first lab-grown burger will cost a third of a million dollars.

It may not look particularly appetizing, and apparently, it's not. These petri dishes contain thin strips of 100% lab-grown muscle tissue, synthesized from animal stem cells harvested from slaughterhouses. They contain no blood and no fat (hence the weird look), and are "exercised" by being stretched between a couple tabs of Velcro. By piling about 3,000 of these strips together and throwing in some synthesized fat, it'll be possible (within the year) to create the first ever burger that didn't come from an animal. Once that has been achieved, we can set about tweaking the meat to look and taste the way we want it to, which shouldn't be too difficult.

Besides all of the ethical issues that lab-grown meat would render moot (and there are lots), raising animals to eat is a horrendously inefficient method of food production. For every ounce of meat that makes it to the store, seven ounces of vegetable protein were consumed by the animal, and of course producing that vegetable protein in the first place took water and energy. If we were to transition completely to lab-grown meat, the Vancouver Sun calculates that we'd use up to 60% less energy, emit up to 95% fewer greenhouse gasses, and use 98% less land.

The potential of lab-grown meat also raises a bunch of interesting possibilities, more than just potentially erasing ethical qualms about consuming meat. Even more importantly, we'll be able to create burgers and steaks out of anything: want a big juicy panda steak? Sure! Fried bald eagle drumsticks? No problem! And yes, you could even harvest your own stem cells and chow down on, uh, yourself.

Via Vancouver Sun

*Not convinced? There's a bunch of info here.

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