Meet ‘Schmeat’: Lab-grown meat hits the grill this month

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A hamburger patty made from lab-grown meat — or “schmeat” — is expected to be unveiled and grilled later this month at an event in London that is highly anticipated by animal rights activists and other backers.

“The vision for this burger is really to attract support, to attract funding,” said social sciences researcher Neil Stephens in an interview with CBC’sThe Current host Anna Maria Tremonti. “And I’m sure it will because it’s a very enticing idea for many people.”

Stephens, a professor at Cardiff University in Wales, has been studying the ethical and cultural issues around in vitro meat and has interviewed all the key scientific figures in the field.

Among them is Mark Post, a physiologist at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, who grew the meat for the upcoming burger unveiling in his lab. The development of the 140-gram patty has taken two years and cost €250,000 ($338,000). Stephens said the funding needed to scale up the process to something commercially viable is one of the biggest obstacles right now on the journey of in vitro meat from the lab and the supermarket.

Conventional meat raises environmental, ethical concerns

Isha Datar is among those who hope the London burger event will lead to larger amounts of funding for the development of in vitro meat.

Datar is the executive director of New Harvest, a non-profit organization that raises awareness about alternatives to conventionally produced meat, and provides some funding and support to researchers in the field.

“Meat as we know it today is very environmentally unfriendly,” she told The Current.

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