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Scientists serve up $373,000 test tube burger

Karl Mathiesen (via SMH) | Aug. 6, 2013
''Frankenburger'' could dramatically reduce the energy, land and water use and greenhouse gas emissions involved in meat production, according to a 2011 study at Oxford University.

London: Star Trek popularised it and on Monday a chef pan-fried it - the world's first laboratory-grown burger has been cooked and tasted at an event in London.

Advocates said the 'cultured meat' could solve a range of environmental, human health and animal welfare issues attributed to the farming of livestock.

Research leader Professor Mark Post, a vascular physiologist at Maastricht University, said the demonstration was a proof-of-concept and cultured meat could realistically be on supermarket shelves within 10 to 20 years.

Food revolution: a burger made from cultured beef.
Food revolution: A burger made from cultured beef.Photo: David Parry via Getty Images

The development of the 'world's most expensive burger', funded by Google co-founder Sergey Brin, recalls Star Trek's vision of the 'replicator' - a machine that could grow meat using only the ingredients in air.

Sceptics have labelled Professor Post's invention ''Frankenburger''. The public perception of the meat as the stuff of science fiction will be a challenge to its acceptance among consumers, said Professor Post.

''When you ask people in the streets are you going to eat this, it's come from a lab? Probably the primary answer is: 'No, are you out of your mind?''' he said.

The test tube burger is prepared for a first public tasting.
The test tube burger is prepared for a first public tasting. Photo: David Parry via Getty Images

But, in a video shown at the demonstration, Mr Brin said: ''If what you are doing is not seen by some people as science fiction then it's probably not transformative enough.''Food scientist and volunteer taster Hanni Rtzler said: ''There is quite some intense taste. It's close to meat. It's not that juicy. But the consistency is perfect.

''But all three tasters, including Professor Post, noted a lack of fat that made the meat taste slightly unfamiliar and bland.Professor Post said the meat did not have fat cells, which normally provide much of meat's juiciness and taste. He expected to eventually be able to produce meat that was identical to flesh from livestock.

A 2011 study at Oxford University found that cultured meat could dramatically reduce the energy, land and water use and greenhouse gas emissions involved in meat production.

Taste test: food writer Josh Schonwald tries the burger.
Taste test: Food writer Josh Schonwald tries the burger. Photo: Reuters

The study's author, Dr Hanna Tuomisto, said on Monday that: ''Livestock production contributes 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions, 27% of the global water footprint and 33% of the global land use.''

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) spokesperson Ben Williamson said: ''The meat industry, as it stands, causes enormous animal suffering and environmental damage.''

 

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