Where's the beef? The answer to that classic question may soon be, "It's growing in a test tube."
Dutch scientists estimate that they are about one year away from developing the world's first "test-tube hamburger" made with ground beef grown from stem cells — and they're looking for someone to try it.
"We are trying prove to the world we can make a product out of this, and we need a courageous person who is willing to be the first to taste it," Mark Post, professor of physiology at Maastricht University, who is spearheading the project, told the Daily Mail. "If no one comes forward then it might be me."
Post, who has previously grown pork in the lab, says this kind of scientifically-engineered meat, referred to as in vitro meat, will be essential to satisfy demand as the world's population increases and puts more pressure on existing farming and ranching practices. Global meat consumption is expected to double by 2050.
"I think [in vitro meat] will be the only choice left,” Post told Scientific American. "I'm very bold about this. I don't see any way you could still rely on old-fashioned livestock in the coming decades."
To grow the bionic burger, scientists will extract approximately 10,000 stem cells from the tissue of a healthy cow. These cells will then grow in the lab, multiplying by more than a billion times, eventually producing muscle tissue similar to the sample taken from the original cow. The tissue will then be ground and pressed into hamburger patties.
One of the challenges is to create meat that resembles what today's consumers are accustomed to eating. Post's previous attempts at growing pork yielded a texture that he compared to a squishy scallop, the result of its having less protein content than naturally raised meat.