A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

The $325,000 Burger

Meat cells being grown in a petri dish

The inventors of the first laboratory-grown meat are gearing up to unveil their creation in a few weeks in London. But don’t expect it to be on the menu for several years.

Dr. Mark Post, who’s leading the project at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, is considering having a celebrity chef cook up the 5-pound curiosity, but he’s well aware that it won’t satisfy your average gourmet carnivore. He says he’s thinking of the presentation as more of a proof of concept that will attract more funding.

And he’ll need the funding. This first burger is said to be $325,000 in the making. It will consist of 20,000 thin strips of cultured muscle tissue made of tens of billions of cells that have to be cultivated in the laboratory, and starting with a particular type of cell that’s removed from the necks of a dead cow at a slaughterhouse.

“Animal farming is inefficient technology, millennia old, and by far the biggest ongoing environmental catastrophe.”

Other biologists and entrepreneurs are also in the race to produce a real “test-tube” meat that doesn’t involve the lives of animals. Last year, Stanford University’s Patrick Brown announced that he’s taking a different approach,  working to make meat alternatives directly from plant sources that can actually compete with beef, pork, chicken and other animal products – even dairy.

The point isn’t to make another kind of soy burger, Brown said at a science conference in Vancouver. It’s to make something that “can compete head-on with meat and dairy products,” especially among people who would never touch a veggie burger.

Brown said he’s being backed by a “major Silicon Valley venture firm.” He calls animal farming “inefficient technology, millennia old” that also represents “by far the biggest ongoing environmental catastrophe.”

Dr. Post says one of his goals is to reduce the need for cattle. “If we can reduce the global herd a millionfold, then I’m happy,” he said. “I don’t need to reduce it a billionfold.”

Meanwhile, humankind’s appetite for meat is such that consumption is expected to double by the year 2050.

Option B: Switch to a plant-based diet.