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Saturday 19 April 2014

First lab-grown beef burger gets mixed response from food critics

Hanni Rutzler, a food researcher from Austria, tastes the world's first lab-grown beef burger during a launch event in west London, August 5, 2013. The in-vitro burger, cultured from cattle stem cells, the first example of what its creator says could provide an answer to global food shortages and help combat climate change, was fried in a pan and tasted by two volunteers. The burger is the result of years of research by Dutch scientist Mark Post, a vascular biologist at the University of Maastricht, who is working to show how meat grown in petri dishes might one day be a true alternative to meat from livestock.The meat in the burger has been made by knitting together around 20,000 strands of protein that has been cultured from cattle stem cells in Post's lab. REUTERS/Toby Melville (BRITAIN - Tags: ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY ANIMALS FOOD)
Hanni Rutzler, a food researcher from Austria, tastes the world's first lab-grown beef burger

A SIZZLING slice of edible history was served up today - the world's first lab-grown beef burger.

The 5oz (142g) round, pink slab of meat, which cost £250,000 to create and was made from stem cells, was fried in a little sunflower oil and butter before a 200-strong audience by leading chef Richard McGeown from Couch's Great House Restaurant in Polperro, Cornwall.

It was then dished up with an accompaniment of lettuce, tomato and bread buns to be sampled by two VIP guests.

Their verdict: It's looks like beef, feels like beef but does not quite - yet - taste like beef.

American food writer Josh Schonwald, author of the book The Taste of Tomorrow, said after chewing thoughtfully for some time: "The texture, the mouth feel, has a feel like meat.

"The absence is, I feel, the fat. There is a leanness to it. But the bite feels like a conventional hamburger.

"What is most conspicuous is definitely the flavour."

Fellow guest Austrian food scientist and author Hanni Rutzler, who was the first to try the burger, said: "I was expecting the texture to be more soft.

"There is a bite to it. There is quite some intense taste.

"It's close to meat - it's not that juicy but the consistency is perfect."

Next to take a bite was Dutch scientist Professor Mark Post - who produced the burger in his laboratory at the University of Maastricht, from stem cells taken from a dead cow.

"I think it's a very good start," he said.

"This was mostly to prove that we could do it. I'm very happy."

The tasting event took place at London's Riverside Studios in Hammersmith on a stage converted into a kitchen/diner.

Prof Post believes laboratory grown "cultured meat" could appear in supermarkets in 10 to 20 years time

It took 20,000 tiny strips of meat grown from stem cells to make the burger.

Other ingredients included salt, egg powder, breadcrumbs, red beetroot juice and saffron.

Prof Prost admits more work has to be done before the artificial meat can compete with the real thing when it comes to taste.

He said: "There is no fat in here yet. We're working on that. It will take a couple of months. We all know some of the flavour comes from the fat and the juices come from the fat, but I think this is a good start.

"We are basically catering towards letting beef eaters eat beef in an environmentally ethical way. Let the vegetarians stay vegetarian."

He also revealed the identity of the previously unnamed businessman who has financed the project, Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

"He is as interested in solving the food problems as I am and decided to find a project that dealt with these issues," said Prof Post.

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