Scientists Produce First Lab-Grown Burger
Two food writers got to sample the world’s first test-tube hamburger yesterday. And while both critics seemed to find the petri dish patty lacking in flavor, the tasting represents a huge step forward in addressing the growing food needs of the world.
Professor Mark Post‘s team at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands developed the meat, which began as stem cells and was grown in the lab. About 20,000 strips of muscle fiber were combined with beet juice and saffron (for color) to produce the single patty. The total cost of the project was over $300,000, and it took two years.
The meat was also combined with breadcrumbs, salt, and egg powder for flavor, and was fried in amounts of butter than two different news outlets described as “copious.”
Austrian food researcher Hanni Ruetzler gave the burger the dubious praise of being “close to meat,” saying also “this is meat to me,” and complimenting it’s texture. Ruetzler also noted that she thought the meat was much more obviously the real thing compared to soy alternatives.
American food writer Josh Schonwald similar stated the texture felt “like a conventional hamburger.”
Both tasters noted the absence of fat in the meat as greatly affecting its flavor. But this is possibly a minor problem, as USA Today quotes another biochemist saying, ”Taste is the least (important) problem since this could be controlled by letting some of the stem cells develop into fat cells.”
Meat production touches on numerous global issues, from land and water usage, to antibiotics, to nutrition, to animal cruelty. All the while, opponents of genetically-modified foods fear unintended consequences. But researchers hope that lab-grown meat could help supply the increasing demand in the developing world in a sustainable way.