Questions for ‘Designing tomorrow’s burger’

Scientists are exploring very different ways to produce a “ground beef” alternative for burgers. One approach grows just the edible parts of the animal. The other tries to simulate meat using plants. Shown here, Impossible Burger’s meat-free burger.


To accompany feature “Designing tomorrow’s burger” 


Before Reading

1.  Do you eat meat? If not, do you have a friend or family member who does? Where does that meat come from? How does it get from the farm or water to the dinner plate?

2.  Most people love the flavor of meat. But producing it, especially in the amounts needed to feed most people across the planet, uses a lot of resources. What are at least three of them?

During Reading: 

1.  How long have people been talking about getting beef without having a cow?

2.  How much did Mark Post’s first lab-grown hamburger cost?

3.  Explain what Hannah Laird’s sensory evaluation lab is teaching volunteers to do.

4.  How does Laird describe the aroma and flavor of raw beef?

5.  Animal farming accounts for what share of the greenhouse gases emitted by people?

6.  How much meat does the average American consume on any given day?

7.  Why does Bruce Friedrich argue that farmed meat is immensely wasteful?

8.  What role did beet juice play in the first lab-grown burger — and why was it “needed”?

9.  Which was worse about the 2003 lab-grown meat from an art exhibit in France: the texture or the taste? What contributed to that problem?

10.  What is heme? Where did Patrick O. Brown get the starting heme for his studies? And what does his company use it for in their plant-based burgers?

After Reading: 

1.  Based on what you’ve learned from the story, would you consider swapping out one of the lab-based or plant-based burgers for the ones you eat today? Assume the regular burger cost $2. Would you buy an alternative one that cost 10 percent more — $2.20? How about if it cost $3? Explain your reasoning.

2.  Based on what you read in the article, what are three reasons for developing meat without the whole animal? Which of these do you find most compelling? Which is least compelling to you? Explain why.


1.  According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the average American consumes how much meat each week? How does that compare to what the American Heart Association recommends eating per week? Show your work.

2.  According to the article, how many individual muscle cells went into the first lab-grown burger? If all of its cost was to assemble those cells by hand into a burger (and it wasn’t), what would have been the cost per muscle cell needed? Show your work.