"Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, has been revealed as the project's mystery backer. He funded the £215,000 ($330,000) research."BBC:
The first lab-grown burger has now been cooked in a frying pan and tasted by two food writers. But did it live up to all its hype?
Dr. Mark Post, of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, remarked: "It's a very good start."
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 centimeter long and a few millimeters 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.
At the moment, scientists can only make small pieces of meat; larger ones would require artificial circulatory systems to distribute nutrients and oxygen.
The breadcrumbs, egg powder and seasoning that were added for flavor must certainly have helped with its taste. It was also colored with beetroot and saffron - as the stem cell strands on their own are an unappetizing pasty color.
Because the meat is initially white in color, Helen Breewood - who works with Dr. Post - is trying to make the lab-grown muscle look red by adding the naturally-occurring compound myoglobin.
It must be said that the cultured beef did start to resemble a real burger, but it seemed to turn brown a lot more slowly than a conventional burger might, with some of its brown hue perhaps attributable to the copious amount of butter that was added to the pan.
Hanni Ruetzler, a food researcher from the Future Food Studio, tasted a mouthful as Dr. Post was still fielding questions. She first smelled it and also carefully prodded it with her fork as if testing for rigidity.
After chewing, she said she had expected a softer texture and later commented on its crunchy surface.
"There is really a bite to it, there is quite some flavor with the browning. I know there is no fat in it so I didn't really know how juicy it would be, but there is quite some intense taste; it's close to meat, it's not that juicy, but the consistency is perfect."
The second taster, food author Josh Schonwald, said what was "most conspicuously different" about it was its flavour, spice and the lack of fat, but that the bite did feel "like a conventional hamburger".
Whether or not vegetarians could eat the produce is still open to debate, but Dr. Post said that his team was catering for beef eaters and that "vegetarians should remain vegetarians, that's even better for the environment".
For the burger to be approved to market a "dossier of evidence" would be needed to show that the product is safe, nutritionally equivalent to existing meat products and will not be at risk of misleading the consumer, said the Food Standards Agency.
Dr. Iain Brassington, a bioethicist, at the University of Manchester, said it was easy to dismiss the inevitable arguments against it, such as the "frankenfoods gambit - the idea that this process interferes with nature".
"All food production interferes with nature - wheat, for example, is the result of thousands of years of selective breeding, and is grown on land that has been systematically altered for the purpose.
"If you don't want food that's the product of interference with nature, you're probably going to be hungry."
The World Health Organization (WHO) says meat production is projected to rise to 376 million tonnes by 2030 from 218 million tonnes annually in 1997-1999, and demand from a growing world population is expected to rise beyond that.
According to a 2006 report by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), industrialised agriculture contributes on a “massive scale” to climate change, air pollution, land degradation, energy use, deforestation and biodiversity decline.
The meat industry contributes about 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, a proportion expected to grow as consumers in fast-developing countries such as China and India eat more meat, the report said.
Chris Mason, a professor of regenerative medicine at University College London, who was not involved in the research, said it was “great pioneering science” with the potential to ease environmental, health and animal welfare problems.
But, he added: “whilst the science looks achievable, the scalable manufacturing will require new game-changing innovation”.
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