Test-Tube Burger May be a Future Alternative to the Real Thing

Image courtesy of KEKO64 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net  

Image courtesy of KEKO64 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How do you like your burger cooked? On the pan? On the grill? How about straight out of the petri dish?

It’s no secret that with the help of science humans can do things that seem beyond impossible.

The world’s first “test tube burger” was flipped out of a petri dish straight to the frying pan on Monday (August 5, 2013). Food tasters declared the laboratory-grown burger as having a taste “close to meat.”

With meat production levels at an all-time high, scientists are eager to find an alternative that will benefit the world in multiple areas.

The project was overseen by a team of scientists and researchers from Maastricht University, but was funded almost completely by Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who apparently not only has a large passion for science and innovation, but a large bank account as well.

At a cost of 750,000 euros, or $994,200 in United States currency, to prepare, this burgers was grown from cattle stem cells. After its birth from the petri dish, the five-year science experiment was cooked and eaten in front of television cameras and gained a tremendous amount of media coverage and exposure.

Now that’s an expensive burger.

Created in a lab in the Netherlands, 20,000 strands of laboratory-grown protein were knitted together and combined with other ingredients that are common in burgers, such as salt, breadcrumbs and egg powder. In order to give it the burger color, red beet juice and saffron were added. The test-tube burger resembles the usual circular-shaped red meat patty in almost every aspect from an appearance perspective.

“It’s a very good start,” says the head scientist, vascular biologist Mark Post, behind the creation of the burger.

His goal with this experiment was to make the world aware that in the future meat will not always have to come from the environmentally and economically costly slaughtering of millions of animals across the world.

According to the World Health Organization, meat production is estimated to rise to 376 million tons by 2030. This is a dramatic increase from 218 million tons annually throughout the years 1997-1999.

Not only that, but the meat industry accounts for about 18% of  greenhouse gas emissions across the globe, a proportion expected to grow even more as consumers in fast-developing countries such as China and India eat more meat.

Although Post is confident that his concept can be offered as a solid alternative to animal meat production, he understands that it may be another 20 years or so before lab-grown meat makes its way to supermarket shelves. He also is aware that the taste of his meat must be improved in order for it to become a more popular choice.

While this project only included a burger, it raises the question whether scientists will experiment with a variety of meats and foods in the future.