At Home in the Lab with Mark Post, Father of the In Vitro Hamburger
We’re standing with Professor Mark Post in front of the three biggest bioreactors in the Netherlands, the machines humming faintly and filled with millions of busily dividing cow cells. While the term ‘bioreactor’ might call to mind a gleaming, swimming pool sized tank, the reality is far more prosaic. You’d be forgiven if you thought they were refrigerators.
Post, the man behind the world’s first lab-grown hamburger, aims for no less than a total transformation of the way we produce meat. “My goal” he says, “is to replace the entirety of livestock production with in vitro meat”. Post’s relaxed manner belies the scale of his ambitions: “I dream that, at some point, McDonald’s will approach me to produce all the hamburgers, all over the world”. By raising meat entirely in a lab, starting with stem cells and ending with full-grown muscle, Post hopes to make meat that’s cheaper, healthier, and more sustainable than the real thing. The everyday quality of the bioreactors in his facility acts as a metaphor for in vitro meat itself: a science-fictional achievement that aspires to not only be normal, but natural.