Would you eat a lab-grown burger that cost more than $330,000 to create?
The answer is yes, if you are the US-based food author Josh Schonwald and Austrian food researcher Hanni Ruetzler, who on Monday volunteered to participate in the taste-testing session that took place in London.
The 5-ounce patty was made from cattle stem cells, specifically meat from the muscle cells of two organic cows. The cells were put into a nutrient solution to help them develop into muscle tissue, growing into small strands of meat, the Associated Press reported
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The burger took five years of research to produce
and could eventually help to end hunger around the world and in the process fight climate change, claimed Professor Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, whose lab developed the meat.
"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. "We haven't altered [the bovine muscle cells] in any way. For it to succeed it has to look, feel and hopefully taste like the real thing."
Mixed with salt, egg powder and breadcrumbs to improve the taste, and colored with red beetroot juice and saffron, researchers claim the meat will taste similar to a normal burger.
After taking a mouthful, Ruetzler told reporters at the press conference: "I was expecting the texture to be more soft. . . I know there is no fat in it so I didn't know how juicy it would be."
"It's close to meat. It's not that juicy," Ruetzler added. "The consistency is perfect (but) I miss salt and pepper!"
Google's co-founder Sergey Brin was one of the financial backers of the project.
"Sometimes when technology comes along, it has the capability to transform how we view our world," Brin said in a video message about the project. "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."
The lab-grown meat was also welcomed by PETA's president and co-founder Ingrid Newkirk.
"As long as there's anybody who's willing to kill a chicken, a cow or a pig to make their meal, we are all for this," Newkirk said. "Instead of the millions and billions [of animals] being slaughtered now, we could just clone a few cells to make burgers or chops."
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The meat will likely not be available to the public for years to come, and when it does hit the market, expect it to be expensive says Isha Datar, director of New Harvest – an international nonprofit that promotes meat alternatives.
"The first [lab-made] meat products are going to be very exclusive," Datar told the AP. "These burgers won't be in Happy Meals before someone rich and famous is eating them."
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