Meat Predictions

Alexis rounds up predictions about the availability of lab-grown meat:

Ever since I started following in-vitro meat at Wired six years ago, I’ve noticed a trend. Each time there’s a media moment about test tube burgers, dozens of writers discover the existence of this corner of science and get an expert make a prediction about “when we’ll see this kind of meat on supermarket shelves,” or whatever.

This time around, Reuters got Post to predict commercialization in 20 years, but there have been many other types of forecasts. My intuition was that the predictions were always just far enough into the future to make them checking them unlikely. So I made this chart with some help from my memory, Google News, and Lexis Nexis, so that we can all keep track going forward; the data’s embedded below and linked here.

Brad Plumer bets that we won’t see commercially available test-tube burgers any time soon:

At the moment, as Tom Philpott highlights, the artificial meat cells need to be nurtured with ”fetal bovine serum,” or blood derived from cow fetuses. That’s not exactly ideal from an environmental or animal rights perspective — and it’s massively expensive, with the serum selling for around $250 per liter.

So, as an alternative, some scientists hope that future meat cells could be fed with algae. That’s an enticing idea. Algae are exceedingly efficient at photosynthesis, which is why researchers have often looked to the organisms as a way of minimizing the environmental footprint of food production. But it’s never quite worked in the past

Should these hurdles be overcome, Ezra considers the market for lab-grown meat:

Taco Bell, for instance, has been sued for serving beef that’s only 35 percent beef. They countered by insisting their beef is at least 88 percent beef. No one is suggesting their beef is 100 percent beef. Meat grown in a lab wouldn’t be much of a jump. And it’s megachains like Taco Bell and McDonald’s where environmentally friendly, completely humane lab meat would make the biggest difference, anyway.

Earlier Dish on the world’s first lab-grown hamburger here.