By GATONYE GATHURA
The first man-made meat is ready for eating and will be unveiled at a major culinary festival in London on August 5.
The five ounce burger, to be cooked and served to an unnamed celebrity, will cost a staggering $325,000 (Sh28 million) and for the first time demonstrate that it is possible for the world population to eat meat without having to keep millions of livestock.
While still many years away from your favourite roast meat den, its creator, Prof Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, says the test-tube meat could at some point in the future become an alternative to beef, pork or chicken.
While in Kenya such a prospect would, for example, solve the problem of cattle rustling once and for all, it would at the same time deny the pastoralist communities of their major source of livelihoods.
Supporters of the project argue that this venture would solve many health problems, including a reduction of animal-to-human diseases, antibiotic resistance derived from animal meat and a myriad problems coming from meat contamination.
The boneless test tube or cultured meat, whose development has captured the attention of the western media, is made from thousands of strands of artificial meat that have been painstakingly grown from stem cells in a laboratory.
The burger will be made up of approximately 3,000 strips of muscle tissue, each measuring about 3cm long by 1.5cm wide, Prof Post told the UK’s Daily Mail.
Each strip is grown from a cow stem cell, though other researchers are working on a concept that will make the raw materials without involving the animals at all. The strip then develops into a strip of muscle cells after being cultured in a synthetic broth containing vital nutrients.
In this designer-meat, researchers will be able to manipulate the nutritional content, including the amount of bad fat in the product which would go a long way in fighting obesity, which is today a major problem.
Prof Post say cultured meat should be as safe as, or safer than, conventional meat, and might even be made to be healthier.
Asked to visualise a world of man-made meat Isaack Muli, who all his adult life has been roasting goat meat at the Spinners Pub and Restaurant along Outering Road, says it sounds like a bad dream.
“What do you tell a fellow who wants to enjoy meat from a Maasai goat which he claims has a unique taste because of the type of vegetation and minerals it feeds on.”
“What about the man who just wants meat for just the pleasure of pulling from a well-roasted goat rib. This is too revolutionary to imagine,” says a horrified Muli.
Prof Post understands fears that would plague people like Muli.
Initially, he says, many people would take a-wait-and see attitude but as the technology is improved and the costs go down more people, including vegetarians and animal rights activists will accept the product.
“The point is, we already have sufficient technology to make a product that we could call meat or cultured beef, and we can eat it and we survive,” he told the Mail.
Other proponents of the project say it will be good for the environment because livestock is known to be a major polluter producing huge percentages of greenhouse gases. Prof Post says the cultured meat could satisfy the growing global demand for meat, which is expected to double by 2050.