The world's first lab-grown burger has been cooked and eaten at a news conference in London.

Scientists took cells from a cow and, at an institute in the Netherlands, turned them into strips of muscle that they combined to make a patty.

One food expert said it was "close to meat, but not that juicy" and another said it tasted like a real burger.

Researchers say the technology could be a sustainable way of meeting what they say is a growing demand for meat.

The burger was cooked by chef Richard McGeown, from Cornwall, and tasted by food critics Hanni Ruetzler and Josh Schonwald.

Upon tasting the burger, Austrian food researcher Ms Ruetzler said: "I was expecting the texture to be more soft... there is quite some intense taste; it's close to meat, but it's not that juicy. The consistency is perfect, but I miss salt and pepper.

"This is meat to me. It's not falling apart."

Food writer Mr Schonwald said: "The mouthfeel is like meat. I miss the fat, there's a leanness to it, but the general bite feels like a hamburger.

"What was consistently different was flavour."

Prof Mark Post, of Maastricht University, the scientist behind the burger, remarked: "It's a very good start."

The professor said the meat was made up of tens of billions of lab-grown cells. Asked when lab-grown burgers would reach the market, he said: "I think it will take a while. This is just to show we can do it."

Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, has been revealed as the project's mystery backer. He funded the £215,000 ($330,000) research.

Prof Tara Garnett, head of the Food Policy Research Network at Oxford University, said decision-makers needed to look beyond technological solutions.

"We have a situation where 1.4 billion people in the world are overweight and obese, and at the same time one billion people worldwide go to bed hungry," she said.

"That's just weird and unacceptable. The solutions don't just lie with producing more food but changing the systems of supply and access and affordability, so not just more food but better food gets to the people who need it."

Stem cells are the body's "master cells", the templates from which specialised tissue such as nerve or skin cells develop.

Most institutes working in this area are trying to grow human tissue for transplantation to replace worn-out or diseased muscle, nerve cells or cartilage.

Prof Post is using similar techniques to grow muscle and fat for food.

He starts with stem cells extracted from cow muscle tissue. In the laboratory, these are cultured with nutrients and growth-promoting chemicals to help them develop and multiply. Three weeks later, there are more than a million stem cells, which are put into smaller dishes where they coalesce into small strips of muscle about a centimetre long and a few millimetres thick.

These strips are collected into small pellets, which are frozen. When there are enough, they are defrosted and compacted into a patty just before being cooked.

Because the meat is initially white in colour, Helen Breewood - who works with Prof Post - is trying to make the lab-grown muscle look red by adding the naturally-occurring compound myoglobin.

"If it doesn't look like normal meat, if it doesn't taste like normal meat, it's not... going to be a viable replacement," she said.

She added: "A lot of people consider lab-grown meat repulsive at first. But if they consider what goes into producing normal meat in a slaughterhouse, I think they would also find that repulsive."

Currently, this is a work in progress. The burger revealed on Monday was coloured red with beetroot juice. The researchers have also added breadcrumbs, caramel and saffron, which were intended to add to the taste, although Ms Ruetzler said she could not taste these.

At the moment, scientists can only make small pieces of meat; larger ones would require artificial circulatory systems to distribute nutrients and oxygen.

In a statement, animal welfare campaigners People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) said: "[Lab-grown meat] will spell the end of lorries full of cows and chickens, abattoirs and factory farming. It will reduce carbon emissions, conserve water and make the food supply safer."

Critics of the technology say that eating less meat would be an easier way to tackle predicted food shortages.

The latest United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report on the future of agriculture indicates that most of the predicted growth in demand for meat from China and Brazil has already happened and many Indians are wedded to their largely vegetarian diets for cultural and culinary reasons.

Source : BBC News

Comments : I personally appreciate this research, but I won’t eat this kind of lab-grown meat. I prefer green vegetables and fresh fruits. What’s your opinion? Please share your opinion by comment below!

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I think it's a great idea. Even though there is the concern that Andrea stated, if enough meat is made from cells and not taken from animals directly, it would vastly cut down on the amount of animals killed for food among meat eaters who don't care for animals.

If mass produced, it would be cheap and efficient. Personally, if it became mass produced, common, and variable (so, not just burgers, nicer foods as well), I would eat it, assuming I don't completely hate the smell and idea of taste of meat by that time. If it hurts no animal and I know exactly what's in it, I would have no issue with eating it except for taste.

Even though this meat was created without animal cruelty, I still wouldn't eat it. I think that this isn't the solution to world hunger and that more people should be turning towards plant-based diets instead of going to such great lengths to artificially create meat. It makes me sad to see that people love their meat so much that they are willing to do this so that more people can be supplied with meat instead of simply promoting a plant-based diet, which requires much fewer resources. 

I agree with you, Ruby! A plant-based diet would be far more reasonable and economic. 

And I cannot agree with Fred. As with all industrially produced foods you cannot be sure what is in it. The animal cells have to grow and develop in a growing medium. Imagine huge industrial tanks filled with some kind of liquid where chunks of a meaty substance grow in. This liquid can be manipulated, unhygienic and the end result could be even more unhealthy than real meat. Of course, it would probably safe some animal lifes. Provided the taste and texture are comparable to real meat. 

But since I do not believe in a health benefit for the consumer, it would be better if meat eaters would become vegetarians or at least cut back on their meat consumption. If everybody would eat vegetarian food only twice a week, it would safe thousands of animal lifes and it would be the healthier option. 

I heard stem cells must come from an aborted embryo...is that right? is that where they got the cells for this burger? if so, ten that is abortion which is killing.

This is great stuff! I just posted a similar discussion for a paper I am writing. I should have checked for similar discussions first. Thanks for the article and the comments!

I'd rather it didn't even look like meat, I wouldn't mind the taste though, but I'm not sure to what extent would animals have to "contribute" to this processing, but I guess it can't be worse than it is right now, can it? I'm fine with my diet just the way it is, I think this is very unnatural and I don't need this, but if this is a chance to reduce the suffering, I say go for it but I still see this as a supposedly murder free healthier alternative for the meat eaters.

Just eat real food, animals real or made in a lab is not food ,

I think it is good idea because no animals suffer )
But of course it will be better if people will realize what they do not need to eat meat

It's a stupid idea. , lab food will have health effects , just eat a banana of vegetable

Gross!

This makes me sick to my stomach. I can't stand the thought of it.

I think it was unnecessary to fund this type of project, especially if you're still using animal cells.

Just my humble opinion

I'm getting to where all I can eat are fruits and veggies, nuts and legumes. All these resources to reproduce something that science has already told us is bad for us seems anti-productive, unless of course you're a big corporation intent on monopolizing the food industry. Yeah that seems about right. :-(

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