Dutch scientist expects world’s first cultivated burger in October

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at https://www.rnw.org/about-rnw-media.

A Dutch scientist expects to be able to serve the world’s first cultivated burger in October.

Mark Post made the announcement during a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Post, who started his research last year, expects it will take some doing to persuade the general public to eat the lab-cultivated meat. It would have to look and taste just like the real thing.

The scientist, who works at the University of Maastricht, uses stem cells from offal which he grows into long thin strips of tissue. These are then stacked on top of each other to create a burger.  

That is all the information Post is willing to share. His reticence is easily explained by the large amounts of money that could be made from a successful artificial burger. The global meat industry is worth billions of euros a year. The researchers - and their business partners who are funding the research – are obviously hoping their product will be able to claim a large share of this highly lucrative market.

It’s not all about the money. Cultivated meat has other advantages. The global population is growing fast and cultivated meat is seen as an elegant and environmentally-friendly way of feeding all those mouths. Post claims that production of his product would require 40 percent less energy than regular meat.

Post has a budget of 250,000 euros at his disposal to produce the first cultivated burger. It is not clear who his commercial backers are, but it seems a foregone conclusion that the cultivated burger will be here soon, possibly as early as October.

The Dutch scientist is not the only one working on cultivated meat. Patrick Brown of Stanford University is trying to produce meat from vegetable materials. However, the main issue is not who will produce the first convincing meat substitute. The real question is whether it will succeed in convincing even the most discriminating meat eaters.