David Parry/PA Wire, Press Association via AP Images
A lab-grown meat burger made from Cultured Beef, which has been developed by Professor Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands.

Frankenstein's Burger: Would You Eat This Lab-Grown, Stem Cell Patty?

August 06, 2013

Stem cells from cow shoulder muscle were cultured into strips of meat that grew, over the course of two years, into the first cultured beef patty. Scientists hope test-tube burgers will one day be sold to the masses to combat the coming food crisis and climate change.

A food panel in London tasted the patty on Monday. 

"It's literally like cooking any other burger I've experienced before, a nice and pleasant aroma but very subtle at this stage," said Chef Richard McGeown while frying the patty in copious amounts of butter, breadcrumbs, egg powder and seasoning.

The burger itself was also colored with beetroot and saffron to darken the naturally light, pasty stem cell strands.

“I know there is no fat in it so I didn't really know how juicy it would be, but there is quite some intense taste…,” said Hanni Ruetzler, a food researcher from the Future Food Studio, who tasted the patty.

Another taster, Josh Schonwald, a Chicago-based author of a book on the future of food, said "the bite feels like a conventional hamburger" but said the meat tasted "like an animal-protein cake," reported The New York Times.

Dr. Post estimated it would take 10 to 20 years to make cultured meat commercially viable. A major challenge will be making it cost efficient; if production is scaled up, cultured beef would currently run more than $30 a pound.

The project to produce this first cultured burger cost $325,000 over two years, including extra tissue for testing.

Cultured meat, in comparison to conventional meat, would have a number of environmental benefits like reduction of water, land and energy use, and fewer emissions of methane and other greenhouse gases. It would also alleviate animal-welfare issues related to conventional livestock production. And, depending on how the stem cells were obtained, animals may not even have to be slaughtered to produce the cultured meat.

Still, the best method to truly reduce our carbon footprint is to go completely meatless. Dr. Post said: “Vegetarians should remain vegetarian. That’s even better for the environment.”

One proponent of the cultured burger, Dr Iain Brassington, a bioethicist, at the University of Manchester, said it will be easy to knock down the "frankenfoods” argument against it—“the idea that this process interferes with nature."

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“All food production interferes with nature—wheat, for example, is the result of thousands of years of selective breeding, and is grown on land that has been systematically altered for the purpose.

“If you don't want food that's the product of interference with nature, you're probably going to be hungry.”

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