The world’s most expensive burger unveiled

The world’s most expensive burger unveiled

In the next few days (as reported in The Independent on 28th July) the most expensive beef burger in history will be cooked and presented to a selected audience in London. Costing somewhere in the region of £250,000, the 5oz burger will be composed of synthetic meat, grown in a laboratory from the stem cells of a slaughtered cow.

The burger, which has cost over 8,000 times the amount of your regular quarter pounder, is made of around 3,000 strips of rice-grain size artificial beef, grown from bovine stem cells cultured in the laboratory. Scientists believe the public demonstration will be ‘proof of principle’, possibly leading to artificial meat being sold in supermarkets within the next five to ten years.

The scientist behind the ‘in vitro’ burger believes synthetic meat could help to save the world from the growing consumer demand for beef, lamb, pork and chicken.

Stem cells taken from just one animal could, in theory, be used to make a million times more meat than could be butchered from a single beef carcass. The scientists behind the burger claim that synthetic meat needs 99 per cent less land than livestock, between 82 and 96 per cent less water, and produces between 78 and 95 per cent less greenhouse gas – a strong indication that the environmental footprint of meat eating could be dramatically reduced.

Making meat more appealing to vegetarians?

Artificial meat could also make a carnivorous diet more acceptable to the green movement as well as to vegetarians opposed to livestock farming on animal-welfare grounds.

Next month’s culinary demonstration is the culmination of years of work by Mark Post, a medical physiologist at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. His research into synthetic meat has been funded by a wealthy anonymous backer who, according to one source, may reveal his identify publicly by volunteering to be the first to taste the test-tube burger.

Professor Post was interviewed by The Independent last year on his work. He commented: “Eventually, my vision is that you have a limited herd of donor animals which you keep in stock in the world. You basically kill animals and take all the stem cells from them, so you would still need animals for this technology.

“Right now, we are using 70 per cent of all our agricultural capacity to grow meat through livestock. You are going to need alternatives. If we don’t do anything, meat will become a luxury food and will become very expensive,” he said.

Is it as good as it looks?

Of course, there are technical problems in terms of turning artificial meat into a desirable and affordable consumer product – texture and taste being some of the main issues.

Professor Post has said that it is possible to add fatty tissue to the artificial meat fibres to make them more palatable, as well as other nutrients to make the synthetic meat as nutritious as real meat, and possibly even healthier by reducing the saturated fats.

Minced meat or filling for sausages should be easier to make than a steak, but the use of biodegradable ‘scaffolding’ and some kind of artificial blood vessels to deliver oxygen to a culture medium could overcome this physical limitation on the overall size of the finished product.

The Food Standards Agency said that before going on sale, artificial meat would need regulatory approval. The manufacturers would have to prove that all the necessary safety tests had been carried out, a spokeswoman said.
Could an artificial burger ever come close to tasting like a patty made from prime beef? In just over a week’s time, we may be closer to knowing the answer.

To read The Independent’s full report click here

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