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Biotech Idle Science

Test-Tube Burgers Coming Soon 276

Posted by samzenpus
from the grow-mine-medium-rare dept.
ananyo writes "A burger made entirely from lab-grown meat is expected to be unveiled by October this year. But costing in excess of $250,000, it's not going to be flying off supermarket shelves quite yet. The lab meat is produced using adult stem cells, which are then grown on scaffolds in cell-culture media. Because such lab-assembled muscle is weak, it has to be 'bulked up' by exposing to electric shocks. The researchers, based in the Netherlands, had already grown goldfish fillets in 2002, then fried them in breadcrumbs before giving them to an 'odor and sight' panel to assess whether they seemed edible." While I'm not overly enthusiastic about this Dutch attempt at growing burgers, it is a huge step-up from the Japanese effort.
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Test-Tube Burgers Coming Soon

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 20, 2012 @12:48PM (#39101035)

    Made from embryonic stem cells rather than adult, of course.

    • Kinds of surprised no one has posted that. But then, I bet the vast majority of you people weren't even alive what that came out.

  • by Spy Handler (822350) on Monday February 20, 2012 @12:51PM (#39101059) Homepage Journal
    Japanese can eat whale meat all they want without giving Greenpeace fits... and Chinese/Korean/Vietnamese can eat dog meat without offending PETA, Jews/Muslims can eat pork without offending their clergy... what's not to love?
    • by willaien (2494962)

      I doubt that the pork restriction would be lifted for artificial pork.

      It's still, biologically, pork. While a silly rule, that's how they believe, and that it is artificial won't change it.

      • by XanC (644172)

        Well, maybe. Isn't the prohibition against eating animals with cloven hoofs? Or something like that? This would never have had hooves.

        • by willaien (2494962)

          It's still the same species, though. Not saying that you couldn't talk yourself into it using 'logic', like anything pertaining to religion.

        • by PRMan (959735) on Monday February 20, 2012 @02:30PM (#39102095)

          Jewish rabbis get a prohibition on cheeseburgers from this lone (half-)verse:

          Exodus 34:26b: Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.

          From here, they have entire separate milk and meat dishes and can't have even chicken with cheese.

          If you even applied logic to the verses themselves, there are already a great number of things that Jewish people could eat, but don't because a rabbi put a fence around the law.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DaMattster (977781)
      I don't know why but this concept gives me the creeps because we don't really understand all there is to know about genetics. By creating meat in a lab, there is no way to be sure that it is exactly the same as nature intended it to be. In fact, our bodies may very well process it differently or it could be very detrimental to our health. It is better to use actual animals but figure out a way to make it more environmentally sound. For example, by harvesting the methane gas produced by cows, we are left
      • by Anrego (830717) * on Monday February 20, 2012 @01:06PM (#39101239)

        I say make it an option and let people decide.

        Personally, I'm all for it, but I recognize there is always a risk when something is untested. The same can be said for any drug. You can't tell what the effects will be in 30 years until, well, people have been using it for 30 years. You can make soem very good guesses (which is what will happen with the synthetic meat) but you won't really _know_ until a generation actually lives off it.

        There's gonna be people who won't trust this stuff (and probably never will), and that's fine.

      • by Artraze (600366)

        Or perhaps even more to the point, is that meat (and all food) is part of a living thing and contains the nutrients needed to keep that thing alive, which in turn keep us alive when we eat it. When you grow it in the lab, you're simplifying the whole complex metabolism of a living thing into some process fluid that grows some cells in the lab, and the contents food becomes little more than bulked up proteins. How much B12 does it have? How much iron? Omega3s?

        The trouble with synthetic meat, as I see it,

        • by Anrego (830717) *

          take those ingredients as a multivitamin and eat some fried tofu.

          Except you can't have a medium rare tofu steak.

          Personally I eat as a pleasurable activity. The fact that it's necessary to sustain me is secondary. If they could come up with a food substitute that was purely for sensation / making you feel full, and we all just took pills to actually get nutritional content.. I'd be all for it.

          • by Dogtanian (588974) on Monday February 20, 2012 @03:20PM (#39102657) Homepage

            If they could come up with a food substitute that was purely for sensation / making you feel full, and we all just took pills to actually get nutritional content.. I'd be all for it.

            I dunno, they did something similar to that with chewing gum in the early 1970s that was supposed to approximate a three course meal. If I remember correctly, it ended up badly with the blueberry pie dessert course.

            I think they made a hard-hitting movie dramatisation of it...

      • meh... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by DrYak (748999) on Monday February 20, 2012 @01:47PM (#39101619) Homepage

        I don't know why but this concept gives me the creeps because we don't really understand all there is to know about genetics

        No genetics involved here.
        It's plain vanilla stem cells, which are grown on a media and produce muscle tissue.
        It's exactly the same process which occurs naturally in a growing animal.

        By creating meat in a lab, there is no way to be sure that it is exactly the same as nature intended it to be. In fact, our bodies may very well process it differently or it could be very detrimental to our health

        From a dietary point of view, the only point in eating meat is to get proteins. There are some amino acid which are present in meat while being rare in most plants (that's why you can't improvise a vegan regime but need to follow a specific regime with enough specific plants which give you the otherwise rare and missing amino acids).
        Everything else you get it from plants: including all the really important vitamins, and so one. Except some B vitamins which are absent in plants but present in yeast (beer!!!) and in animal products (milk).
        So wherever you hamburger was vat grown, or grown on a real animal doesn't change much: You'll get what you need (protein) from both, and anything else you need comes actually from your side dish (vegetables).
        If you want to be concsious about what you eat, you don't need to insist on animal meat. You need to eat more fruits and vegetables.

        From a "food processing point of view", it doesn't mean much. Cooking food destroys (denaturates) most proteins anyway, so by the time it goes out of the grill, it won't be much different between vat grown and animal grown.

        From a biological point of view, this is not simply proteins produced in a vat, this is real muscle tissue produced by actual stem cell, just like in a growing body. Under the microscope you won't see much difference.

      • by icebike (68054) * on Monday February 20, 2012 @02:08PM (#39101805)

        I don't know why but this concept gives me the creeps because we don't really understand all there is to know about genetics.

        And this is different in what why when compared to meat from Cattle or Pigs, or Lettuce, or tomatoes? We really don't know all there is to know about ANYTHING, and we never will. Yet I bet you eat these things with impunity.

        Interestingly enough, Tomatoes are one of the first bio-engineered foods [wikipedia.org]. Originally no bigger than a berry, it had already been engineered by indigenous farmers in South America to be about the size of a large grape when the Spanish arrived. Only after it was spread to Europe was it widely cultivated, crossbred, and selected until it reached its current size. Every once in a while someone decides to make tea out of tomato leaves. Bad Idea. [wikipedia.org] And we don't know All there is to Know about tomatoes yet, but we eat them by the ton.

        This "We don't know all there is to know" is just another version of the rallying cry There are some things science can't explain! [meidell.dk] which is thrown out by the "back to the earth" crowd any time anything challenging is presented.

        I haven't decided if this an example of the Fallacy of False Dilemma, or the Fallacy of the Appeal to Ignorance, but its pretty annoying in any case.

    • Kosher mammals must a) chew their cud and b) have cloven hooves. If you consider test-tube meat to be mammal, you could argue that no test-tube meat is kosher.
    • While many Jews are, sub rosa, totally into ham/bacon/etc., a lot of Muslims avoid it for cultural rather than religious reasons. I've known lots of (nominally) Muslims who drank alcohol, but very few who ate pork - the Pakistanis I've known in particular regard pork the way Americans view eating cat or dog.
  • That's just messed up in so many ways.
  • by Daas (620469)

    You can pry my dead cow burger from my greasy and certainly not cold dead hands.

  • by lobiusmoop (305328) on Monday February 20, 2012 @12:55PM (#39101117) Homepage

    In the West we could all do with eating a bit further down the food chain really - Red meat is known to linked to bowel cancers.

    Mind you, I'm Scottish, so can't really preach about good diet really :)

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You guys have haggis. What kind of cancer does eating bowels give you?

      • by Gordonjcp (186804)

        What do you think goes into any other kind of sausage? Or burgers for that matter?

        Hint - it's not prime steak, that's for sure...

    • by schitso (2541028)
      Care to link to a study that:
      1. Doesn't conflate red meat and processed meats
      2. Doesn't use cooking methods that char the hell out of the meat, generating HCAs?

      I'm all for eating well, but I remain skeptical that healthy animals produce unhealthful meat.
  • Because such lab-assembled muscle is weak

    It's veal!

  • by jsepeta (412566) on Monday February 20, 2012 @12:59PM (#39101163) Homepage

    so who cares how it tastes?

  • Growing meat... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by blahplusplus (757119) on Monday February 20, 2012 @12:59PM (#39101177)

    ... at industrial scale that is both cost effective and as good/or better then the real thing remains to be seen.

    • by Guppy (12314)

      Growing in-vitro meat is essentially the same business as manufacturing advanced bio-pharmaceuticals -- you have the same issues of running a bioreactor with strict sterility requirements, complex growing media, and other expensive criteria.

      Even if technological developments were able to drive the cost of doing mammalian cell culture to a fraction of its current price, you would still be an absolute fool to use your capacity to produce a low-priced commodity, compared with the high-margin drug products that

  • adult stem cells (Score:4, Informative)

    by romanval (556418) on Monday February 20, 2012 @01:00PM (#39101183)
    They mean adult cattle... but my first thought: it's made of people!
  • by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Monday February 20, 2012 @01:01PM (#39101187)

    Perhaps if part of training the muscle involved teaching it to hump its way up onto a bun, then pull a slice of tomato and some lettuce over itself as a kind of blanket...

    • Now I'm going to be thinking of the cow from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe all day.
  • I'll gladly give you fiat currency Tuesday for a fake-meat burger today.

    • by emagery (914122)
      Assuming this technology pans out, why would you call it fake? Just like a lab-grown emerald, it is chemically identical to the natural source without all the damage to the landscape, infection(inclusion) exposure, or unnecessary cost. (sure it costs a lot now, it's an experiment. In a couple decades time, it'll clock in at a ten, maybe a hundredth of the cost of 'real-but-otherwise-inferior' meat off the killed organism.)
      • Assuming this technology pans out, why would you call it fake? Just like a lab-grown emerald, it is chemically identical to the natural source without all the damage to the landscape, infection(inclusion) exposure, or unnecessary cost. (sure it costs a lot now, it's an experiment. In a couple decades time, it'll clock in at a ten, maybe a hundredth of the cost of 'real-but-otherwise-inferior' meat off the killed organism.)

        Because it won't be the same. They're not making a T-bone steak, they're making protein mush. It may well look and taste like something you get a McDonald's but it will be a far cry from 'real meat'.

        And Guppy's [slashdot.org] comment is also relevant - it's unlikely to be cheaper than cows on a hoof.

  • It might have been best to clarify what species of adult the stem cells are harvested from, since in most news stories, "adult stem cells" typically has a connotation of adult human stem cells!

  • Glad (Score:2, Interesting)

    by emagery (914122)
    This is good progressive news; global demand for meat far outstrips the resources, which pushes producers not only to destroy wilderness to attempt to supply, but convert to factory farming, abject cruelty, increase contamination likelihood, et cetera. If you want meat in your future, and have no plans to breed a little bit less for a few generations to give the poor planet a break from the burden of trying to supply for our desires, then this is basically your only course of action. Frankly, I'd feel bet
  • Well, they are getting better! The Japanese version makes Soylent Green look appetizing by comparison! Talk about a literal shit sandwich!!
  • "it has to be 'bulked up' by exposing to electric shocks"

    I don't care if it is in a test tube, PETA's gonna go apeshit over this.

  • $250K (Score:3, Funny)

    by DogDude (805747) on Monday February 20, 2012 @01:17PM (#39101381) Homepage
    They could sell the shit out of these $250K burgers they were called iBurgers and were sold by Apple.
  • Not in my buns! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by icebike (68054) * on Monday February 20, 2012 @01:21PM (#39101417)

    On a continent that goes apeshit [bbc.co.uk] over Genetically Modified and other Bioengineered Crops, it seems unlikely this will gain any traction in the commercial market place, at least not in the EU [wikipedia.org]. On the other hand, the EU may take the stance that since this work was pioneered in the EU, it can't possibly be bad.

    Now on Mars, or long space voyages this might have some appeal, especially Mars, where there is a possibility of finding water, thereby eliminating one of the heaviest component of any food product. Although unless making and transporting the necessary equipment and media takes up less room and less weight than a freezer full of hamburger this seems unlikely there as well. Chances are the growth media can be shipped dry as well, and reconstituted with distilled water from any source.

    Even if the cost per pound could be brought in line with animal sources, it seems unlikely to be a rational method of food production here on earth, simply because significant portions of the meat supply would be put at risk by a simple power failure, or contaminant in the growth media.

    The rest of this story will no doubt be filled with hand wringing posts over the amount of CO2 that cattle produce (something never attributed to Wildebeest herds), and how this will save the earth. The whole concept creates an intellectual conundrum for the Peta crowd. They would love to get animals off the farm, and this method presents a way forward, but having to embrace those huge corporations, and bio-engineering is probably more than they could stomach.

  • by JazzHarper (745403) on Monday February 20, 2012 @01:27PM (#39101469) Journal

    Reporters grab this story from the file every year or so. As long as it has the "ick factor", they'll continue to run it. It seems to have first appeared in 2001. Here's one from about six years ago: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/11/magazine/11ideas_section2-9.html [nytimes.com]

  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Monday February 20, 2012 @01:33PM (#39101515)
    Reminds me of the Better Off Ted [wikipedia.org] episode "Heroes", where Veridian Dynamics is working on lab-grown beef:

    • Phil: Blobby, like Bobby, only with an l
    • Lem: Don't name it or you won't want to eat it. Remember Chester the carrot?
    • Phil: Yeah, I miss him

    When the company food taster is asked for his opinion on the beef, he stares off sadly and says, "it tastes like despair".

  • All these comments and not a mention of Alpha Centauri's beef vats? For shame, nerds. For shame.
  • There once was a website called manbeef.com that claimed to be a source of fresh human meat for human consumption. (It was elaborate and looked real, but there was no contact information about how to actually procure the stuff, so it was a hoax.) However is there any particular reason why human stem cells shouldn't be used and human meat produced for human consumption? I think it'd be interesting. The argument goes that no poor animal has to suffer and die to satisfy our taste buds anymore, surely the s

  • The lab is powered by hamster wheels.
  • by Tragek (772040) on Monday February 20, 2012 @02:16PM (#39101883) Journal

The bogosity meter just pegged.

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