Lab-grown Burger Unveiled
Scientists have unveiled the world's first lab-grown beef burger.
The 140g (about 5oz.) patty, which cost more than 250,000 euros ($330,000) to produce, has been made using strands of meat grown from muscle cells taken from a living cow.
Mixed with salt, egg powder and breadcrumbs to improve the taste, and colored with red beetroot juice and saffron, researchers claim it will taste similar to a normal burger.
Professor Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, whose lab developed the meat, says the burger is safe and has the potential to replace normal meat in the diets of millions of people. He brought it into a news conference at a TV studio on a tray covered in a metal cloche.
The patty was served to two volunteers, US-based food author Josh Schonwald and Austrian food researcher Hanni Ruetzler. After taking a mouthful, the latter said, "I was expecting the texture to be more soft ... I know there is no fat in i,t so I didn't know how juicy it would be.
"It's close to meat. It's not that juicy. The consistency is perfect, (but) I miss salt and pepper!"
Sergey Brin, one of Google's co-founders, was revealed as one of the financial backers of the project.
He said in a video message, "Sometimes when technology comes along, it has the capability to transform how we view our world. I like to look at technology opportunities. When technology seems like it is on the cusp of viability and if it succeeds there, it can be really transformative for the world."
There are concerns that the growing demand for meat is putting unsustainable pressure on the planet, both through the food required for the animals and the methane gas they produce, which contributes to global warming.
"What we are going to attempt is important because I hope it will show cultured beef has the answers to major problems that the world faces," Post said ahead of the event. "Our burger is made from muscle cells taken from a cow. We haven't altered them in any way. For it to succeed, it has to look, feel and hopefully taste like the real thing."
The team in Maastricht took cells from organic cows and placed them in a nutrient solution to create muscle tissue. They then grew this into small strands of meat, 20,000 of which were required to make the burger.
Although it is very expensive, the costs of cultured beef are likely to fall as more is produced and the team claim it could be available in supermarkets within 10 to 20 years.
Proponents of test tube meat cite a variety of reasons for why it is worth supporting, from animal welfare to the environment and even public health -- lab-created meat theoretically carries no risk of disease and does not need to be treated with antibiotics.
Peta, the animal rights group, has been funding research in the U.S. and has offered a $1 million (750,000 euro) prize for the first lab to produce and bring to market in vitro chicken meat.
Dr Neil Stephens, a sociologist based at Cardiff University who has studied test tube meat, said the project was an attempt to spark a debate about an issue that many in the field believe is still not taken seriously enough. He said about 50 people were involved in this kind of research worldwide, mainly in the Netherlands and North America.