2012: The Year of the First Test Tube Hamburger (If You Have $330,000, That Is)

Laboratory grown meat has been in the works for several years inciting both harsh criticism and applause for its sci-fi futuresque strangeness. And now, the first actual edible in-vitro burger is going to be eaten, and fetching an impressive selling price of $330,000.

The grand price tag is coming from an anonymous donor who is reportedly supporting the research at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands with the generous donation to expedite the development of the cultured meat industry, which is reportedly just months away from being a viable, edible and ethical “meat” product option.

Cultured meat is created with actual animal cells, growing just the edible muscles and tissue, providing the potential for eliminating the suffering and slaughter of billions of animals each year, and for also reducing the need for antibiotics and other drugs used in large numbers in the disease-prone factory farms, which have led to the spread of antibiotic resistant pathogens and other health issues for both livestock and humans.

The project received major support from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) to the tune of $1 million for the first scientist to produce an animal meat alternative. The potential to decrease the immense number of animals used for food while still providing meat-lovers with the taste and texture of actual meat has major value in animal rights, environmentalism and combating world hunger issues. Unlike mock meat products, which are often made with allergens like wheat and soy (and often genetically modified soy), the in-vitro meat is theoretically indistinguishable from actual animal flesh.

But the project is not without its controversy. Akin to genetically modified foods, the lab-grown meat offends many food purists. And just like genetically modified organisms, it lacks long-term human health and environmental studies. Thus, critics of test-tube meat fear the potential risks, especially to human health.

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Image: Horia Varlan