Production costs of a lab-grown stem cell hamburger could go down from USD 300,000 to an estimated USD 65 per kilo, according to researchers who are working to enhance the flavour and taste of the burger.
Mark J Post, chair of the department of physiology and professor of vascular physiology and tissue engineering, Maastricht University, The Netherlands, believes his team’s USD 300,000 cultured hamburger will not only come down in price but someday make it to the market.
“It’s realistic that we can do this,” said Post.
Post is refining what he already sees as a patty consistent in look, texture and colour to a traditional ground beef burger but lacking in taste.
“We’re starting a company to do this. Initially, it’s going to be a very expensive product but given there’s a hamburger in one restaurant for USD 450, there’s a market for them,” he said in a presentation at ‘IFT15: Where Science Feeds Innovation’ hosted by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) in Chicago.
He said he plans to start the company this year.
Using the stem cells from a cow to grow muscle fibre shaped like a donut, Post and his team created what looks like a hamburger patty but missing the fat content that gives it flavour and taste.
He’s redesigning models and cell sources to create tasty fat content for his burger and even offered it up for a taste test to celebrity chefs and tasters in London in 2013.
“They came up with the same analysis as me, ‘it’s OK, it’s much better than any other replacement we’ve seen but it’s not there yet’,” Post said.
A Guardian readership survey, and later an independent survey in the Netherlands, found more than 60 per cent of consumers surveyed said they would buy and eat a cultured burger.
He’s confident early adapters of the lab-produced burgers will urge others to consider it and perhaps even overcome any concerns over its origin, be it natural or unnatural.
“We eat livestock beef because we like it. Once you have alternatives, you can no longer do that. Eventually, the ethical dilemma will be for cultured beef versus livestock beef,” Post said.
Post is also working on his models with a stem cell bank which is projecting production costs of his burger could go down from USD 300,000 to an estimated USD 65 per kilo.