Heston to cook test-tube burger
Celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal is famous for his scientific approach to cooking. But the beefburger he could be serving up in eight months' time will surpass even his most outlandish efforts.
The "test-tube burger" will be the first beef patty ever created in the laboratory. Its price tag - 250,000 euro (£207,535) - reflects just how exclusive this culinary experience will be.
The burger's true "chef" is Dutch stem cell scientist Dr Mark Post, from the University of Maastricht.
After experiments which progressed from mouse meat to pork, he is now ready to produce an artificial burger that looks, feels and tastes like the real thing.
Sandwiched between two buns, it will make a grand public entrance in October. The current plan is for Blumenthal to cook it for a mystery guest, to be chosen by the research project's anonymous funder.
The minced meat will have been grown from bovine muscle and fat stem cells cultured in Dr Post's laboratory.
Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Vancouver, Canada, Dr Post said: "In October we're going to provide a proof-of-concept showing that with in-vitro methods, out of stem cells we can make a product that looks like and feels and hopefully tastes like meat. That first hamburger is going to cost 250,000 euros."
Right now Dr Post is still working with unappetising half-millimetre thick strips of lab-grown meat that are pinky-yellow in colour. But he is confident that over the course of this year he will produce a burger virtually indistinguishable from one bought in the high street.
The research has a serious aim - to address the problem of unsustainable livestock farming. "These animals are very inefficient in the way they convert vegetable matter to animal protein," he said. "Cows and pigs have an efficiency rate of about 15%, which is pretty inefficient. Chickens are more efficient and fish even more.
"Meat demand is going to double in the next 40 years. Right now we are using 70% of all our agricultural capacity to grow meat through livestock."