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Lab-Grown Beef Is Becoming Dramatically More Affordable

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Would you eat a test tube burger?

The world's first lab-grown burger.
The world's first lab-grown burger.
David Parry via AFP/Getty Images

Could beef created in a laboratory mean the end of traditional cattle farming as we know it? The scientist who unveiled the world's first so-called "test tube beef" burger back in 2013 seems to think so.

Professor Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands tells the Australian Broadcasting Corporation he believes that in 20 or 30 years, "we will have a viable industry producing alternative beef." While the first lab-grown burger he helped produce cost a princely sum of $380,000, Post estimates that today the production of lab-grown beef costs about $80 Australian per kilo (about $28 USD per pound), and says "that within years it will be a price-competitive alternative." As support for his vision, Post points out that "traditional meat sources will not be able to satisfy the world's growing demand for protein, and that cattle, in particular are an inefficient use of resources."

Post is scheduled to speak at Australia's annual Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association today. The NTCA's CEO, Tracey Hayes, says that while the technology has the potential "to be a major disruptor to the worldwide beef industry," she thinks "it's too big a stretch to expect the broader public or the general consumer to consume beef that has been prepared in the laboratory"  and — environmental concerns aside — big-name chefs seem to agree.