Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Lab-Grown Beef: It's Here

This post originally appeared at, and is a follow-up to a post on this site from last year, when we didn't really think murder-less meat would be a reality so soon.
As you may have heard by now, they’ve finally done it. They have grown a full-sized hamburger in a laboratory. And eaten it.
How did they do this, you ask? Well, it seems that a Dutch vascular physiologist (What’s a vascular physiologist? That doesn’t sound like someone that would work with food.) named Mark Post has been working for over ten years on perfecting the technology. According to an article in Scientific AmericanPost acquired stem cells from a fresh cut of beef (somehow) and then “the cells were ‘fed’ calf serum and commercially available growth medium to initiate multiplication and prompt them to develop into muscles over time.”
Oh yes. Right. Commercially available growth medium. That was buy one get one free at CVS last week, so I stocked up.
Post was apparently stumped for some time by how to get his creation’s texture to mimic that of meat, until “the scientists exercised the remaining muscle strands in a bioreactor by affixing them to a soluble sugar scaffold and slowly built tension…essentially helping the muscle to ‘bulk up.’”
I don’t really know what a bioreactor or a soluble sugar scaffold looks like, so I’m just going to picture a cartoon hamburger running on a treadmill while scientists in lab coats take notes and “Eye of the Tiger” plays.
According to the lucky mortals deemed worthy of a taste, food critics Hanni Ruetzler and Josh Schonwald, the lab burger isn’t too bad. And it shouldn’t be, seeing as how it cost $332,000, most of which was financed by Google co-founder Sergey Birn, earning the technology the nickname “Google Burger.”
Personally, I hope “Google Burger” sticks, and becomes the official name this stuff goes by when and if we get to the point at which the common man can just up and buy it at the grocery store. We’re already victims of subliminal advertising when we watch sports at Wrigley Field or Gillette Stadium. Why not enjoy a nice Google Burger with the game?
The marriage of scientific curiosity to corporate money is not a new one, in reality or fiction, and maybe meat grown in a lab is just the realization of those meals in a pill we all thought we’d be dining on by now.
If this technology takes hold, and continues to sponsored by the man behind Google, we could find ourselves with some truly fantastic branding opportunities. “Google Burger” could be its own wacky, computer themed restaurant chain. By painting the buildings in Google’s signature red, blue, yellow and green, it could be the most garish joint on the block, making McDonald’s and Burger King restaurants look demure by comparison. Let’s see. What else would Google Burger serve? A Silicon Salad maybe? Chicken nuggets that come in personal (8-bit) or family sized (32-bit?) And, needless to say, no Apples.
What are your thoughts on this? Suspicion? Disgust? Indifference? Is anybody particularly pro lab grown meat? And what else would you want to see available at the fictional Google Burger?

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