The first lab-grown sausage might be just six months away, though, according to Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands – a major pioneer and champion of the technology. Post has experimented mainly with pig cells and has recently developed a way to grow muscle under lab conditions – by feeding pig stem cells with horse fetal serum. He has produced muscle-like strips, each 2.5 centimetres long and 0.7 centimetres wide.
Post makes sure his tissue strips receive daily exercise to give them the same constitution as real muscle. He anchors them onto Velcro before stretching the cells away from the surface. Even so, the strips looks anaemic and unappetising. “It’s white because there’s no blood in it, and very little myoglobin, the iron-bearing protein,” he says. “We are looking at ways to build up the myoglobin content to give it colour.”
With funding from an unnamed philanthropist, Post is ready to extend the work to cow cells. “I’m hopeful we can have a hamburger in a year,” he says.