Synthetic Sausages

Meat cultured from stem cells in the lab may hit the market in the next year.

Sep 2, 2011
Jef Akst

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, SALIMFADHLEY

No pigs or cows required—meat grown in the lab from cultured stem cells may be hitting the market sooner than one might guess. Earlier this week, researchers gathered in Sweden to discuss the progress towards generating slaughter-less meat. The conclusion: lab-grown sausages may be as little as 6 months away, according to Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, who recently succeeded in growing pig muscle in the lab.

Researchers tout the impending success as one that could save millions of animal lives as well as be more environmentally friendly and energy efficient than current animal farming practices.

But a major hurdle remains: will the meat be as tasty and nutritious as the real thing? Though Post subjects his lab-grown meat to exercise on a daily basis—by anchoring it to Velcro and literally stretching the cells—to ensure it bulks up as much as it would on a living animal, the meat is still, for lack of a better word, unappetizing—namely because it has no blood, Post told New Scientist. “It's white because there's no blood in it, and very little myoglobin, the iron-bearing protein," he said. "We are looking at ways to build up the myoglobin content to give it colour."

And he next plans to turn to beef. "I'm hopeful we can have a hamburger in a year," Post told New Scientist.