The Future of Food: World's First Test-Tube Burger

To all health-conscious people, eating meat is definitely a no-no. Though, research shows that we all need meat for its protein content, there were still people who prefer to eat non-meat meals, they are the vegetarians. However, on a recent experiment by a group of scientists, they have successfully cultured a laboratory-grown beef.

Scientists unveiled the world's first lab-grown beef burger, serving it up to volunteers in London in what they hope is the start of a food revolution.

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. The costs of cultured beef are likely to fall as more is produced and the team claim, although it is very expensive, 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.

The 140-gram (about five-ounce) patty, which cost more than 250,000 euros (US $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. On a tray covered in a metal cloche, he brought it into a news conference at a TV studio.

The patty was served to two volunteers, US-based food author Josh Schonwald and Austrian food researcher Hanni Ruetzler. She claims after taking a mouthful, "I was expecting the texture to be more soft... I know there is no fat in it 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!"

One of Google's co-founders Sergey Brin was revealed as one of the financial backers of the project. "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", according to him on a video message.

There are concerns that both through the food required for the animals and the methane gas they produce, which contributes to global warming, the growing demand for meat is putting unsustainable pressure on the planet.

According to Post before the event, "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".

"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 animal rights group Peta, has been funding research in the United States. They have offered a $1 million (750,000 euros) prize for the first lab to produce and bring to market in-vitro chicken meat.

A sociologist based at Cardiff University Dr Neil Stephens, who has studied test tube meat, told AFP the project was an attempt to spark a debate about an issue that many in the field believe is still not taken seriously enough. "They want to demonstrate to the world that in-vitro meat is something that's real, it's something to be taken seriously," he claims. He also said that, "This is still very much an early stage technology".

According to him, "This is a fundamentally different way of making meat". When a debate asks question if it is meat at all, this is what he said, "What will be interesting is, in the coming weeks, watching the response to
see how many people are convinced by the technology."

Scaling it up will be a big challenge. He said about 50 people were involved in this kind of research worldwide, mainly in the Netherlands and North America.

According to Reuters, The world's first laboratory-grown beef burger was flipped out of a petri dish and into a frying pan on its unveiling event, with food tasters declaring it tasted "close to meat".

Maybe years from now, people will be accustomed to eat lab-grown food. There will be less animal slaughtering, that’s one of scientist goal after all.

Would you care to taste that? I would!