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Scientists to cook world’s first in-vitro beef burger


Building a $325,000 Burger

video           May 12, 2013

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The idea of creating meat in a laboratory — actual animal tissue, not a substitute made from soybeans or other protein sources — has been around for decades. The arguments in favor of it are many, covering both animal welfare and environmental issues.
2011 study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, for example, showed that full-scale production of cultured meat could greatly reduce water, land and energy use, and emissions of methane and other greenhouse gases, compared with conventional raising and slaughtering of cattle or other livestock. Those environmental arguments will only gain strength, advocates say, as worldwide demand for meat increases with the rise of middle-class populations in China and elsewhere.
Dr. Post, one of a handful of researchers in the field, has made strides in developing cultured meat through the use of stem cells — precursor cells that can turn into others that are specific to muscle, for example — and techniques adapted from medical research for growing tissues and organs, a field known as tissue engineering. (Indeed, Dr. Post, a physician, considers himself first and foremost a tissue engineer, and about four-fifths of his time is dedicated to studying how to build blood vessels.)
Yet growing meat in the laboratory has proved difficult and devilishly expensive. Dr. Post, who knows as much about the subject as anybody, has repeatedly postponed the hamburger cook-off, which was originally expected to take place in November.
His burger consists of about 20,000 thin strips of cultured muscle tissue. Dr. Post, who has conducted some informal taste tests, said that even without any fat, the tissue “tastes reasonably good.” For the London event he plans to add only salt and pepper.
But the meat is produced with materials — including fetal calf serum, used as a medium in which to grow the cells — that eventually would have to be replaced by similar materials of non-animal origin. And the burger was created at phenomenal cost — 250,000 euros, or about $325,000, provided by a donor who so far has remained anonymous. Large-scale manufacturing of cultured meat that could sit side by side with conventional meat in a supermarket and compete with it in price is at the very least a long way off.
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- A corner of west London will see culinary and scientific history made on Monday when scientists cook and serve up the world’s first lab-grown beef burger.
 The in-vitro burger, cultured from cattle stem cells, the first example of what its creator says could provide an answer to global food shortages and help combat climate change, will be fried in a pan and tasted by two volunteers.
 The burger is the result of years of research by Dutch scientist Mark Post, a vascular biologist at the University of Maastricht, who is working to show how meat grown in petri dishes might one day be a true alternative to meat from livestock.
The meat in the burger has been made by knitting together around 20,000 strands of protein that has been cultured from cattle stem cells in Post’s lab.
The tissue is grown by placing the cells in a ring, like a donut, around a hub of nutrient gel, Post explained.
To prepare the burger, scientists combined the cultured beef with other ingredients normally used in burgers, such as salt, breadcrumbs and egg powder. Red beet juice and saffron have been added to bring out its natural colors.
“Our burger is made from muscle cells taken from a cow. We haven’t altered them in any way,” Post said in a statement on Friday. “For it to succeed it has to look, feel and hopefully taste like the real thing.”

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