Cultured beef

The first lab-grown ‘test-tube’ hamburger made its debut-and disappearance into human testers—earlier this week in London.

The “cultured beef” as it’s being called, received a frenzy of media buzz over its potential to replace livestock animals raised in factory farms. A more efficient practice, growing the animal muscle tissue could eliminate suffering for billions of animal each year, as well as reduce the impact livestock waste has on the environment. The project received funding from Google co-founder Sergei Brin, who remained anonymous until Monday’s debut, reports NPR. “Sometimes a new technology comes along and it has the capability to transform how we view the world,” Brin said in a promotional video released on Monday.

The buildup to Monday’s reveal began about three months ago, with Brin’s $330,000 contribution to Mark Post, a vascular physiologist at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, whose team grew the meat from stem cells taken from a cow’s shoulder. It took three months for the 20,000 muscle fibers of the patty-size sample to grow from the stem cells.

Once prepared like a hamburger by chef Richard McGeown of London’s Couch’s Great House Restaurant, Post presented the burger to the high profile guest tasters, Hanni Rützler, an Austrian food scientist, and Josh Schonwald, a Chicago-based journalist and author of The Taste of Tomorrow: Dispatches From The Future of Food, reports NPR: “The texture, the mouthfeel has a feel like meat,” Schonwald said. “The absence is … fat. It’s a leanness. But the bite feels like a conventional hamburger. It’s kind of an unnatural experience [without condiments].

“Rützler agreed the burger was edible, but not delectable. “It has quite some intense taste, it’s close to meat,” she said. “I thought it would be softer.”

More research is still needed in developing the test-tube cultured meat, and Post would also like to explore other animal products including chicken and fish. But beef topped the list because it consumes so many resources. “Our current meat production is at a maximum and it’s not going to be sustainable,” Post said. “We need to come up with an alternative.”

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Image: culturedbeef.net