The Rs 2-crore burger is here

Aug 06, 2013, 12:17 IST | Agencies

After years of research and hype, taste testers finally bit into a Rs 2-crore burger created from stem cells in a petri dish rather than meat from a farm or a store

A slice of history has been served up in the shape of burger after two food experts sampled the world’s first test-tube patty, made from lab-grown meat, in London.

The 142-gram patty cost £220,000 (Rs 2 crore) to produce and was plated up by its creator in front of an invited audience at a secret location in the west of the city.

And, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the verdict wasn’t too bad -- with one taster describing it as having a ‘perfect consistency’ but that it could do with some salt and pepper.

Brave moo world: Austrian food researcher Hanni Ruetzler samples the world’s first lab-grown beef burger in London. The burger was cooked by chef Richard McGeown, who fried it in sunflower oil and butter. Pic/AFP/Press Association

Scientist Professor Mark Post produced the burger from 20,000 tiny strips of meat grown from cow stem cells. He believes it could herald a food revolution and expects artificial meat products appearing in supermarkets in as little as 10 years.

Professor Post’s team at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands conducted experiments which progressed from mouse meat to pork and finally beef.

He said livestock farming is becoming unsustainable, with demand for meat rocketing around the world. Before the burger was cooked, he said: “What we are going to attempt is important because I hope it will show cultured beef has the answers to major problems that the world faces.

Our burger is made from muscle cells taken from a cow. We haven’t altered them in any way. For it to succeed it has to look, feel and hopefully taste like the real thing.”

Post was confident he could produce a burger that was almost indistinguishable from one made from a slaughtered animal. And perhaps he wasn’t far off.

After taking a mouthful, taster Hanni Ruetzler said: “I was expecting the texture to be more soft... I know there is no fat in it so I didn’t know how juicy it would be.It’s close to meat. It’s not that juicy. The consistency is perfect (but) I miss salt andpepper!”

Post stepped in to carry out the demonstration that was originally meant to be fronted by chef Heston Blumenthal last October.

From stem cells to beef burgers: The process
>> First the stem cells are cultivated in a nutrient broth, allowing them to proliferate 30-fold.
>> Next they are combined with an elastic collagen and attached to Velcro ‘anchor points’ in a culture dish. Between the anchor points, the cells ‘self-organise’ into chunks of muscle.
>> Electrical stimulation is then used to make the muscle strips contract and bulk up - the laboratory equivalent of working out in a gym.
>> Finally the thousands of beef strips are minced up, together with 200 pieces of lab-grown animal fat, and moulded into a patty. Around 20,000 meat strands are needed to make one 142 gram burger.

Google founder funded burger
Google’s Sergey Brin has said he funded the Dutch university’s project. Speaking at the launch, he said, “When you see how these cows are treated, it’s certainly something I'm not comfortable with.”

20,000 The number of meat strands required to make a 142-gram beef patty

10 to 20 yrs Time it will take for these burgers to be sold in the market 

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