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Lab-grown burger eaten in London

Grown in-vitro from cattle stem cells at a cost of $332,000, food tasters declared it tasted "close to meat".

Last Modified: 05 Aug 2013 23:39
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The world's first laboratory-grown beef burger was flipped out of a petri dish and into a frying pan, with food tasters declaring it tasted "close to meat".

Grown in-vitro from cattle stem cells at a cost of $332,000, the burger was cooked and eaten in front of television cameras on Monday, the culmination of a five-year science experiment.

Resembling a standard circular-shaped red meat patty, it was created by knitting together 20,000 strands of laboratory-grown protein, combined with other ingredients normally used in burgers, such as salt, breadcrumbs and egg powder.

Red beet juice and saffron were added to give it colour.

The two food tasters were reserved in their judgement, perhaps keen not to offend their host at the London event, noted the burger's "absence of fat".

Food writer Josh Schonwald said the cultured beef had an "animal protein cake" like quality to it, adding that he would like to try it with some of the extras often served with traditional burgers - salt, pepper, ketchup and jalepenos.

'Very good start'

Even the scientist behind the burger's creation, vascular biologist Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, was relatively muted in his praise of its flavour.

"It's a very good start," he told the hundreds of reporters who had gathered to watch the meat being cooked and served.

Current meat production is at its maximum - we need to come up with an alternative

Mark Post, Vascular Biologist, Maastricht University

Post said he was confident his concept can be scaled up to offer a viable alternative to animal meat production, but said it may be another 20 years before lab-grown meat appears on supermarket shelves.

The Dutch scientist's aim was to show the world that in the future meat will not necessarily have to come from the environmentally and economically costly rearing and slaughtering of millions of animals.

"Current meat production is at its maximum - we need to come up with an alternative," he said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says meat production is projected to rise to 376 million tonnes by 2030 from 218 million tonnes annually in 1997-1999, and demand from a growing world population is expected to rise beyond that.

According to a 2006 report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), industrialised agriculture contributes on a "massive scale" to climate change, air pollution, land degradation, energy use, deforestation and biodiversity decline.

The meat industry contributes about 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, a proportion expected to grow as consumers in fast-developing countries such as China and India eat more meat, the report said.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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