World's first lab-grown burger is eaten in London


Food critics give their verdict on the burger's taste and texture

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The world's first lab-grown burger has been cooked and eaten at a news conference in London.

Scientists took cells from a cow and, at an institute in the Netherlands, turned them into strips of muscle that they combined to make a patty.

One food expert said it was "close to meat, but not that juicy" and another said it tasted like a real burger.

Researchers say the technology could be a sustainable way of meeting what they say is a growing demand for meat.

The burger was cooked by chef Richard McGeown, from Cornwall, and tasted by food critics Hanni Ruetzler and Josh Schonwald.


The world's population is continuing to increase and an ever greater proportion want to eat meat. To meet that demand farmers will need to use more energy, water and land - and the consequent increase in greenhouse gas emission will be substantial.

The plan for lab-grown burgers has won support from some animal welfare and vegetarian groups, who feel it addresses their concerns about animal suffering.

But critics say technological fixes, whether it is lab-grown meat or GM crops address the symptoms rather than the causes of world hunger. What is needed, they say, are policies that enable more farmers to produce more food more efficiently and to distribute it more equitably.

And then of course there is the taste. Even those behind the stem cell project agree that the meat grown will never taste as good as that from an animal. But as prices rise, environmental pressures grow and concerns over animal welfare increase, they argue their approach is the only ethical and pragmatic way forward.

Upon tasting the burger, Austrian food researcher Ms Ruetzler said: "I was expecting the texture to be more soft... there is quite some intense taste; it's close to meat, but it's not that juicy. The consistency is perfect, but I miss salt and pepper.

"This is meat to me. It's not falling apart."

Food writer Mr Schonwald said: "The mouthfeel is like meat. I miss the fat, there's a leanness to it, but the general bite feels like a hamburger.

"What was consistently different was flavour."

Prof Mark Post, of Maastricht University, the scientist behind the burger, remarked: "It's a very good start."

The professor said the meat was made up of tens of billions of lab-grown cells. Asked when lab-grown burgers would reach the market, he said: "I think it will take a while. This is just to show we can do it."

Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, has been revealed as the project's mystery backer. He funded the £215,000 ($330,000) research.

Prof Tara Garnett, head of the Food Policy Research Network at Oxford University, said decision-makers needed to look beyond technological solutions.

"We have a situation where 1.4 billion people in the world are overweight and obese, and at the same time one billion people worldwide go to bed hungry," she said.

Prof Mark Post, of Maastricht University, explains how he and his colleagues made the world's first lab-grown burger

"That's just weird and unacceptable. The solutions don't just lie with producing more food but changing the systems of supply and access and affordability, so not just more food but better food gets to the people who need it."

Stem cells are the body's "master cells", the templates from which specialised tissue such as nerve or skin cells develop.

Most institutes working in this area are trying to grow human tissue for transplantation to replace worn-out or diseased muscle, nerve cells or cartilage.

Josh Schonwald Mr Schonwald said he missed the fat, but that the "general bite" was authentic

Prof Post is using similar techniques to grow muscle and fat for food.

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 centimetre long and a few millimetres 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.

Because the meat is initially white in colour, Helen Breewood - who works with Prof Post - is trying to make the lab-grown muscle look red by adding the naturally-occurring compound myoglobin.

Comparing the environmental impact of conventional and laboratory beef production An independent study found that lab-grown beef uses 45% less energy than the average global representative figure for farming cattle. It also produces 96% fewer greenhouse gas emissions and requires 99% less land.

"If it doesn't look like normal meat, if it doesn't taste like normal meat, it's not... going to be a viable replacement," she said.

She added: "A lot of people consider lab-grown meat repulsive at first. But if they consider what goes into producing normal meat in a slaughterhouse, I think they would also find that repulsive."

How would lab-grown meat go down? The BBC's Pallab Ghosh asked the clientele of Duggie's Dogs hot dog restaurant in Vancouver

Currently, this is a work in progress. The burger revealed on Monday was coloured red with beetroot juice. The researchers have also added breadcrumbs, caramel and saffron, which were intended to add to the taste, although Ms Ruetzler said she could not taste these.

At the moment, scientists can only make small pieces of meat; larger ones would require artificial circulatory systems to distribute nutrients and oxygen.

In a statement, animal welfare campaigners People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) said: "[Lab-grown meat] will spell the end of lorries full of cows and chickens, abattoirs and factory farming. It will reduce carbon emissions, conserve water and make the food supply safer."

Critics of the technology say that eating less meat would be an easier way to tackle predicted food shortages.

The latest United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report on the future of agriculture indicates that most of the predicted growth in demand for meat from China and Brazil has already happened and many Indians are wedded to their largely vegetarian diets for cultural and culinary reasons.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 432.

    ..100yrs down the line it WILL be the taste of burger to people who never knew any different.
    In Ep.16 of '90s underwater sci-fi series Seaquest, the Supply Officer smuggled real burger meat on board (raising meat livestock being illegal in 2018). Just as he was about to eat it, it was confiscated by the Cap'n, who binned it after 1 bite as tasted weird compared to future rations :-P

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    Congratulations. This is indeed the first step and there's plenty of room for improvement. If utilized this technique will save 24 million chicken, 100,000 cows and 80,000 pigs slaughtered per DAY in US alone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    The National Cancer Research Institute says beef causes cancer. So why would we choose to grow beef in a lab?

    We have a solution to this problem, it's called tofu.

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.

    427.Phil Glanville
    5 Minutes ago
    . Basically hydroponics for meat, Safety depends on the "nutrients" used.


    ... and the criminally profligate use of the antibiotics upon which we rely to protect ourselves from pathogens.

    There's no advantage to new meat at the cost of destruction of our defence against bacteria.

  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

    25 Minutes ago
    Lab meat would not" end animal suffering", as most animals are eaten by other animals eventually. It would certainly end beef cattle, which would simply no longer exist as a practical matter.


    Let's not forget that calves are born to get cows into lactation. Calves which are not destined to expand or refresh the herd have a very short life expectation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    Many commenting need to read up on a little thing called logistics i.e, It is not the fault of the obese that others are starving; save for the possibility of a larger person stealing someone else's doughnut. This technology, whilst sounding alien, could have many applications & be rolled out wherever needed, even made mobile. Basically hydroponics for meat, Safety depends on the "nutrients" used.

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    316 Curtains

    "American palates accept AMERICAN CHESSE that is totally fake"

    50m acres of genetically engineered food is now grown in the US

    According to the Grocery Manufacturing Association, 70% of items in American food stores contain genetically modified organisms, ingredients that have been scientifically engineered in laboratories to enhance certain traits

  • rate this

    Comment number 425.

    Why bother?

  • rate this

    Comment number 424.

    Lab meat would not" end animal suffering", as most animals are eaten by other animals eventually. It would certainly end beef cattle, which would simply no longer exist as a practical matter. They are not raised as pets. As a Texan I would miss seeing them, as they are such calm and stately animals.
    Do most animals prefer never living at all to their fate as some other creatures meal?

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    322 common

    "We're omnivorous not carnivorous Margaret get it right"

    That depends on how far back you go in human development. Earlier species certainly showed teeth that were meant for chewing foliage and I believe our appendix was designed to process grasses

    We continue to evolve and whereas vegetarianism was regarded as eccentric just a few years ago it has now gone mainstream

  • rate this

    Comment number 422.

    I can already get the seeds for the lettuce and the tomato, when can I get the seeds to grow my own burgers?

  • rate this

    Comment number 421.

    Allopin things that will not fix the food crisis
    1. Telling poor countries to buy meat that is made in a way that they have no way of doing themselves so have to rely on a multinational.
    2. Telling poor people who want to eat to buy increasingly expensive products
    3. Trying to change the way the half of the world produces food without genuinely good intentions
    Where do you get your potatoes from?

  • rate this

    Comment number 420.

    Vegetarianism is the solution nobody asked for to a problem that doesn't exist.

    By far the least healthy aspect of the western diet is the ridiculous levels of salt and processed sugars. Removing / cutting down on those will solve far many more problems than a headlong plunge into veganism.

    I don't see the ethical benefits, either. Does anyone think cows will have a place in a vegan world?

  • rate this

    Comment number 419.

    CRAZY - i quit eating chicken after World Bank promoted it into massive-production as broiler chicken. it tastes like rubber. will give up all other meat if it comes thro' factories/labs!
    Or buy chicken from responsible free-range farms- not difficult to find, & although more ££, they're tastier & healthier.
    And boil the bones for soup stock to make the ££ go further.

  • rate this

    Comment number 418.

    Things that will not fix the food crisis:

    1. Telling people they don't need to eat meat.
    2. Telling people they need to eat less so other people can eat more.
    3. Trying to change the way the half of the world that eats well produces food.

    Most countries that cannot grow enough food to feed their people also couldn't distribute it fairly. The problem is not the stable half of the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 417.

    cheaper lab-grown meat
    Project=£215000.How long for £3 burger?

    Fat free,cruelty free,disease free,no artificial ingerdients,& no hormone or steroid injections to boost yield
    We nd some fat in diet..just not too much.
    To (mostly) avoid cruelty,disease &hormones- avoid factoryfarmed.
    no artificial ingredients,hormones,steroids: "nutrients & growth promoting chemicals" :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 416.

    3 Minutes ago
    And to think that all the 'planet savers' are totally opposed to GM food, and then they are going to accept this. What hypocrisy!!


    Antibiotic - Splash It All Over!

    Perhaps they want the bacteria to beat us by develop resistance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 415.

    @13 ...There is no food shortage in the world. Half of us are overweight while the other half starve...

    Strange logic. No shortage? So how come half of us are starving? I think, you completely missed the point. About wasting money: Leave that to the politicians. They are doing a splendid job already.

  • rate this

    Comment number 414.

    Silverfox although I don't agree with many of the comments on here and people don't agree with me. All have their opinion. This is public debate not a science journal. And scientists are far from perfect and have their own agendas too. You assume there are benefits but what really is the benefit? It is good science. But maybe not good in society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 413.

    The next step is to create a 3D meat printer, possibly using nano technology. I'm salivating already at the prospect.
    Never know, that could be a step closer to food replicators like in Star Trek.


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