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article imageDutch scientists create test-tube burger

By JohnThomas Didymus     Feb 20, 2012 in Food
Maastricht - Dutch scientists have announced that the world's first test-tube burger will be ready in a few months time. They say the laboratory grown burger will look, feel and possibly taste like a regular quarter-pounder.
MSNBC reports Maastricht University professor Mark Post, creator of the test-tube burger, said in Vancouver, Canada, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science that the burger will be unveiled in October. The Sun reports that celebrity Chef Heston Blumenthal, 45, holder of three Michelin stars, has been chosen to cook the burger for a mystery guest in October. According to New York Daily News, the ultimate aim of the project is to mass produce the meat and cut back on cattle slaughtering and the global warming effect of livestock farming.
U.N. figures, according to MSNBC, shows animal farming takes up to 30 percent of the Earth's land resources, and the demand for meat is expected to double in the next four decades. Post said: "You can easily calculate that we need alternatives. If you don't do anything meat will become a luxury food and be very, very expensive."
According to Post, his new "ethical meat" is more environmentally friendly and will reduce the suffering of animals raised to satisfied humanity's craving for flesh. But even now, some are wondering whether lovers of natural food will fancy the idea of eating meat grown in the laboratory.
Another problem with the new meat is that it is extremely expensive. New York Daily News reports the prototype burger Post is planning to serve in October cost $330,000 to produce. But he hopes it will be possible in the future to mass produce cheaper burger that everyone can afford.
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The project was funded by an anonymous investor. Professor Post spent six years researching into how to grow stem cells into meat. Daily Mail reports he began his research with attempts to grow mouse burger in a dish and succeeded in producing strips with texture of squid and scallops. After that initial success, he settled for growing beef.
Growing meat from stem cells involves four steps. According to Daily Mail, the stem cells are first stripped from the cow's muscle and then incubated in a nutrient broth, allowing them to grow into a sticky mass with the consistency of undercooked egg. The product termed "wasted muscle" is then anchored to Velcro and stretched. The meat is then minced and formed into burger by combining with lab-grown fat.
Post told the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual conference in Vancouver that he has so far created a strip of beef measuring 3 cm by 1.5 cm by 0.5 cm.
He described the beef as "pinkish to yellow" in colour but said he expects to have burger with the right color by autumn. He said: "It’s not quite ready, it’s going to be presented in October. We are going to provide a proof of concept, showing that out of stem cells you can produce a product that looks like and feels like and hopefully tastes like meat. Seeing and tasting is believing."
One of the promising aspects of growing laboratory meat is that it could be made healthier for humans by increasing the relative proportions of healthy fats. It is believed that the capacity of a stem cell to multiply is such that cells taken from a single cow could produce much more meat than if the same animal were slaughtered.
Cattle and prize bulls are shown at the Heckington Show market
Cattle and prize bulls are shown at the Heckington Show market
PETA approves lab-grown meat
In response to concerns that laboratory grown meat is "unnatural," researchers point to the fact that even animals raised on farms are kept in "unnatural" conditions and fed chemicals and antibiotics. They also point to the fact that material used for growing the meat in laboratory are taken from natural source.
The researchers are also hoping that ethical vegetarians will approve of laboratory grown meat as it will make slaughtering animals unnecessary. One such "ethical vegetarian" group is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The Telegraph reports that the radical and controversial animal rights group has hailed the news of the world's first artificial meat. PETA has been campaigning vigorously against the meat production and fur industry with controversial and provocative advertisements, Digital Journal reports.
According to a spokesman of PETA Alistair Currie, "This is meat produced without the cruelty, carbon footprint or waste of resources. It's a hugely beneficial development for animals. We welcome this development, which shows this is a viable idea."
Currie said PETA does not object to the fact that the product is technically a meat product. He said: "PETA has no objection to the eating of meat. PETA objects to the killing of animals and their exploitation. I personally don't fancy eating this, but if other people do that's fine."
The Telegraph reports PETA announced four years ago a competition with 630,000 pounds prize for the first team to develop and sell large quantities of chicken grown in the lab by July 2012. Chicken was chosen because it is raised and slaughtered in larger numbers than any other animal.
The rules for the competition were that the team that would win the prize must produce laboratory grown meat with "taste and texture indistinguishable from real chicken flesh to non-meat-eaters and meat-eaters alike". The producers will also have to prove that their product is commercially viable by selling at least 2,000 lbs across ten states in the U.S. over three months at the same prize as real chicken.
PETA has said, however, that Post's team has not meet the requirements for winning the prize offered.
Flank Steak Pieces
Flank Steak Pieces
The future prospects for the livestock industry
Daily Mail reports Professor Phillip Thornton of the International Livestock Research Institute in Edinburgh, in a discussion paper about the current and future demands on livestock production, recently published by the Royal Society, said: "This is one example of something that could happen in the future that could have a very big impact on agriculture and livestock production. There are some advantages to the idea. For example, you could reduce the number of live animals substantially and that would reduce greenhouse gas production. There might be human health benefits because the health and safety issues associated with meat could be much better controlled. But are people going to eat it? People’s tastes have changed a lot over the years and eventually this may be something that is widely taken up."
Skewered Flank Steak
Skewered Flank Steak
But Thornton cautioned about the economic impact the new development may have on livestock farmers. Thornton said: "If you are talking about large-scale reductions in numbers of livestock, there are large-scale implications and we’d have to look very carefully to see if the benefits would outweigh some of the problems that might arise."
Experts estimate it could be ten years before the artificial meat is produced on an industrial scale. The product will also have to satisfy safety testing before it can be made available for sale to consumers.
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