Post has a bold scheme to attract new funding: he aims to create an in vitro sausage just to demonstrate that it is possible. He estimates that it will cost €300,000 and take six months of work by two doctoral students using three incubators. “We’ll take two or three biopsies of a pig—say, 10,000 stem cells,” Post says. “After 20 population doublings, we’ll have 10 billion cells.” The students will use 3,000 petri dishes to produce many tiny bits of porcine muscle tissue, which then will be packed into a casing with some spices and other nonmeat ingredients to give it taste and texture. In the end, scientists will be able to display the sausage next to the living pig from which it was grown.
“It’s basically a stunt to generate more funds,” Post says. “We’re trying to prove to the world we can make a product out of this.” But will it taste like a sausage? “I think so,” Roelen says. “Most of the taste in a chicken nugget or a sausage is artificially made. Salt and all kinds of other things are added to give it taste.”
Van Eelen, who regards himself as “the godfather of in vitro meat,” is not a fan of the sausage proposal. He is a diehard idealist and thinks it is important to launch the in vitro revolution with meat that looks, smells and tastes just like anything you would buy off the farm. Van Eelen probably also realizes that time is running out to realize a dream that he has pursued nearly his entire life. “Every time you talk to him, he’s speaking about someone else he’s found who will be the top scientist who will solve his problems,” Roelen says. “I can understand his point of view. But I can’t change the laws of the universe.”