Lab-grown burger gets taste test in London

By Kristen Butler, UPI.com   |   Aug. 5, 2013 at 12:23 PM

Dutch scientists at Maastricht University in the Netherlands announced last year that they had successfully grown muscle tissue from stem cells, and now that meat has finally reached the table.

In May, Dr. Mark Post announced his team had successfully assembled 20,000 strips of the lab-grown meat into a hamburger. After informal taste tests in the lab, Post said the meat "tastes reasonably good."

In a public demonstration Monday, three people tasted the in-vitro, or cultured, meat. Chicago-based food writer Josh Schonwald said "the bite feels like a conventional hamburger" but that the meat tasted "like an animal-protein cake."

The two-year project to bring in-vitro meat to table cost $325,000, and it was revealed Monday that the endeavor was financed by Sergey Brin, one of the founders of Google.

Researchers used myosatellite stem cells -- basic cells that can turn into more specific cells -- and fetal calf serum to make the cultured meat, though they say in future they will be able to use a non-animal material. For the final product, scientists used beetroot juice to give the meat a pink color.

Post said the lab-grown burger was an expensive proof of concept, but that "if it can be done more efficiently, there’s no reason why it can’t be cheaper."

Proponents say in-vitro meat could help meet increased global demand while reducing water, land and energy use as well as the emissions and pollution associated with livestock production.

Critics, however, argue that simply eating less or no meat would be an easier way to tackle predicted meat shortages.

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