This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Meat the Future

Four years ago I reserved a restaurant table for January 8, 2028 (this is not a typo, …twenty eight!) at Bistro In Vitro. The restaurant plans to open its doors on January 2, 2028 so this was the first available Saturday for a family dinner. You may think I’m crazy, but when you try to book a table now, it is already fully booked for the first 20 months and the next available seats are in August 2029.

What makes this restaurant so special? It was announced at the launch of the “In Vitro Meat Cookbook”, an award winning publication of Next Nature Network that contained the results of a design contest for the application of lab-grown meat. This may sound exotic, and indeed it is, but raising cattle for meat production is one of the most polluting, energy inefficient and unethical ways of producing food and in the long run unsustainable to feed an increasingly affluent world population. Is there a more sustainable alternative (besides everyone becoming vegetarian)?

The design contest was a call for proposals with the following brief: if we can grow meat in vitro, completely uncoupled from animals except for some stem cells to start the culture, what sort of dishes could you come up with. The result was a hilarious series of cooking recipes, some really novel ideas and some gross dishes (the book is still for sale, links below). The book contains thought-provoking assays from scientists, philosophers and chefs and aims to inspire an educated debate. One hell of a conversation starter for Christmas dinner, not?

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The most expensive hamburger ever

“We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing,
by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium”

Winston Churchill

Churchill was ahead of his time when he said that. Change has to begin somewhere and at the start it is the dream of a small number of individuals. In this series of articles I intend to walk you through the embryonic phases of a fundamental change we are going to see in the next 2-4 decades.

One of the pioneers is Prof. Mark Post from the Maastricht University, who began to research the growth of cow muscle cells at microscopic scale. It took several years to get to the stage where he could even contemplate larger scale production. A financial injection from Sergey Brin, one of the Google founders, brought momentum to the project to produce the first in-vitro grown hamburger. It took a massive amount of culture bottles and a fine-tuned mix of chemicals and foetal calf serum to get the cells growing into something that could be described as tiny muscles. After harvesting, all tissue were mixed with red beet extract to get the color resemble more like meat, and squeezed in the well known pattie form. In August 2013 this hamburger was prepared on live BBC-breakfast television and tasted by a culinary journalist, the presenters and Mark Post. “Not bad at all…” was the verdict of the culinary specialist. With a cost price of $ 300,000  we’re not talking MacDonalds here.

Prof. Mark Post in the middle (BBC breakfast)

Now this is a far cry from feeding the world of course. I was very sceptical at the beginning and thought this approach would never be economically feasible, but in my next article I will show some recent developments that made me change my mind. The Bistro In Vitro may even open years ahead of its planning!

By the way, I hope to pay for my dinner in 2028 with 0.002 EOS, drinks included.

Links

Bistro In Vitro Reservations
In Vitro Cookbook
NextNature.net

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Responses

    1. peter S Post author

      Actually, when the book was presented, a survey was done and a majority of vegetarians would not mind eating in-vitro meat. But this is not about vego’s to start eating meat, this is about effects it may have on industrial meat production. Maybe 2 generations later will be appalled by the barbaric methods we are currently using.

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  1. EOSmastering

    Thats hella interesting man. I’m not very ideological on foods although I try to chose organic and as little meat and sugar as possible. I’m not sure what I think about the animal care though..if we stopped eating meat the cows would die out. Perhaps a few in sanctuaries, but no one would afford to just keep a cow for…what really? But at the same time perhaps this is needed to feed the world? Then again, Ive heard and read that we have plenty of food on earth, its just the distribution that is effed up beause of insane warlords and beuracratic organisations.

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    1. peter S Post author

      we’ll need cows for milk at least. It’s indeed not the shortage of food I will be discussing, but the way we produce it. I will go into statistics in a next post, needs some more research first.

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  2. Nicholas

    I work as farmer, and i know, how it made the meat and all kind of our foods. These tech are advanced, and fun, and maybe in long term, it will be cheap, but right now, this is craziness 😀

    We know lot of effective methods for food-producing, but NOONE use them, and this is the reason, why think the most of people, we havent enough resource for population of Earth…
    We have. For 20 billion people. And a several technology upgrading (with existing possibilities), for 30-40 B people.

    Only one different between those, and the present methods: with this upgrade, there is no more easy industrial money for super-riches.

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    1. peter S Post author

      we’ll need cows for milk at least. It’s indeed not the shortage of food I will be discussing, but the way we produce it. I will go into statistics in a next post, needs some more research first.

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  3. Dexpartacus

    A really busy bistrot!
    I’m not crazy about food and I don’t understand people that are but I respect their choices!
    I hope and think the food will be excellent!
    Have a nice dinner in 2029 of you can eat there!

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    1. peter S Post author

      hello Paul, at least 3 parts, so 2 more coming; one on the statistics of current productions, next one of developments for cultures meat. I follow those events so there may be a 4th when there is something relevant to report

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  4. CryptosDecrypted

    You can tell this restaurant was named by lab folks ‘In Vitro’ – yum. Nonetheless, this is the right way to go about eating meat. Ethically this is inevitable (even as a practicing meat-eater). Married to an environmental imperative – it’s only a matter of time and many gross and probably unsafe missteps. Looking forward to the rest of the series Peter.
    (We are still such profound barbarians and will be mortified to see ourselves judged as such in the coming centuries.)

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