From lab to fork!

Dubai - The world's first lab-grown beef burger - carrying a price tag of £250,000 - was unveiled to the world on Monday in the UK and after being whipped from its sizzling frying pan, was likened to meatloaf by the very chef who cooked it.


Kelly Clarke

Published: Wed 7 Aug 2013, 1:44 AM

Last updated: Tue 12 Oct 2021, 8:22 AM

Speaking to Khaleej Times just hours after serving up the five ounce, genetically-produced pattie, Chef Richard McGeown made history by being one of only three in the world — excluding the burger’s creators — to taste the not-so-mouthwatering creation.

“I thought it was edible. It was slightly different to your usual burger, but it tasted like meatloaf.”

Originally to be served to only two volunteers, US-based food author Josh Schonwald and Austrian food researcher Hanni Ruetzler, McGeown said he was delighted to be offered a bite of the pricey bit of meat off stage.

“I wasn’t expecting to taste it. I was happy just cooking it and was honoured to be a part of this historic moment.”

And when asked what he truly thought about the taste, he said he “really enjoyed it”.

The scientists who served up the test-tube beef burger — which was made using strands of meat grown from the muscle cells of a living cow — are hopeful this is the start of a food revolution.

Mixed with salt, egg powder and breadcrumbs to improve the taste, a dash of red beetroot juice and saffron was added to inject a bit of colour.

After taking her first mouthful, Ruetzler said she was missing a key ingredient: “It’s close to meat. I know there is no fat…so it’s not that juicy. The consistency is perfect (but) I miss salt and pepper.”

Professor Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, whose lab took five years to develop the meat, says the burger is safe and has the potential to replace normal meat in the diets of millions of people.

But consumers needn’t rush out just yet, as the team claim it’ll be another 10 to 20 years before the meat graces the shelves of local supermarkets.

Sergey Brin, one of Google’s co-founders, was revealed as one of the financial backers of the project.

He said in a video message: “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.”

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

“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,” Post said ahead of Monday’s event.

To produce this world’s first, 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.

And although it is very expensive, the costs of cultured beef are likely to fall as more is produced.

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.

Dr Neil Stephens, a sociologist based at Cardiff University 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.

(With inputs from AFP)

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