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Test tube burger!


Chindie
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Dutch scientists have used stem cells to create strips of muscle tissue with the aim of producing the first lab-grown hamburger later this year.

The aim of the research is to develop a more efficient way of producing meat than rearing animals.

At a major science meeting in Canada, Prof Mark Post said synthetic meat could reduce the environmental footprint of meat by up to 60%.

"We would gain a tremendous amount in terms of resources," he said.

Professor Post's group at Maastricht University in the Netherlands has grown small pieces of muscle about 2cm long, 1cm wide and about a mm thick.

They are off-white and resemble strips of calamari in appearance. These strips will be mixed with blood and artificially grown fat to produce a hamburger by the autumn.

The cost of producing the hamburger will be £200,000 but Professor Post says that once the principle has been demonstrated, production techniques will be improved and costs will come down.

At a news conference, Prof Post said he was even planning to ask celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal to cook it.

"The reason we are doing this is not to show a viable product but to show that in reality we can do this," he told BBC News.

"From then on, we need to spend a whole lot of work and money to make the process efficient and then cost effective."

So why use such high tech methods to produce meat when livestock production methods have done the job effectively for thousands of years?

It is because most food scientists believe that current methods of food production are unsustainable.

Some estimate that food production will have to double within the next 50 years to meet the requirements of a growing population. During this period, climate change, water shortages and greater urbanisation will make it more difficult to produce food.

Prof Sean Smukler from the University of British Columbia said keeping pace with demand for meat from Asia and Africa will be particularly hard as demand from these regions will shoot up as living standards rise. He thinks that lab grown meat could be a good solution.

"It will help reduce land pressures," he told BBC News. "Anything that stops more wild land being converted to agricultural land is a good thing. We're already reaching a critical point in availability of arable land," he said.

Lab-grown meat could eventually become more efficient than producing meat the old fashioned way, according to Prof Post. Currently, 100g of vegetable protein has to be fed to pigs or cows to produce 15g of animal protein, an efficiency of 15%. He believes that synthetic meat could be produced with an equivalent energy efficiency of 50%.

So what is the synthetic burger likely to taste like?

"In the beginning it will taste bland," says Prof Post. "I think we will need to work on the flavour separately by trying to figure out which components of the meat actually produce the taste and analyse what the composition of the strip is and whether we can change that."

Prof Post also said that if the technology took off, it would reduce the number of animals that were factory farmed and slaughtered.

But David Steele, who is president of Earthsave Canada, said that the same benefits could be achieved if people ate less meat.

"While I do think that there are definite environmental and animal welfare advantages of this high-tech approach over factory farming, especially, it is pretty clear to me that plant-based alternatives... have substantial environmental and probably animal welfare advantages over synthetic meat," he said.

Dr Steele, who is also a molecular biologist, said he was also concerned that unhealthily high levels of antibiotics and antifungal chemicals would be needed to stop the synthetic meat from rotting.

The Beeb

I demand science works on a burger tree. I may accept a burger bush. Or if necessary, a burger box and associated equipment required to produce my own burgers without a cow.

More seriously, this is fantastic. It's kind of amazing we're at the stage we're thinking about making our own crap food from scratch.

Over £200000 a pop though. Without fries.

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Burger King is my preferred burger chain too.

It helps I can also get a discount there when I'm at work :D.

Anywho, would you eat a synthetic burger? Assuming you didn't have to pay for it, obviously.

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Anywho, would you eat a synthetic burger? Assuming you didn't have to pay for it, obviously.

nope , knowing that some cow was slaughtered / butchered in the production of my burger and upsetting some lentil eating hippy simply adds to the enjoyment of the dish

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Anywho, would you eat a synthetic burger? Assuming you didn't have to pay for it, obviously.

nope , knowing that some cow was slaughtered / butchered in the production of my burger and upsetting some lentil eating hippy simply adds to the enjoyment of the dish

:lol:

I agree. Im a carnivore, top of the food chain. End of story.

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Anywho, would you eat a synthetic burger? Assuming you didn't have to pay for it, obviously.

Hells yeah. I'm sure 70% of the crap I eat is processed beyond belief anyway, a lab-grown burger don't make much of a difference to me. As long as it tastes good.

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It probably won't taste like much, apparently. Seems they've worked out how to make meat, meat, but not taste like it.

I'd try it though. Mmm, tasty chemicals. Tasty science! Or not so much.

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Ive never got my head around the whole concept of fake meat? :?

Best way to think about this is this - everything is made of cells, and we've found out that stem cells are like... cells before they've found out what job they want to do. So you can make them into anything you like, if you know how.

So what they've done is made the stem cells go 'We're gonna make cells that make meat!'. And so they've made strips of what is chemically identical to 'meat-y' bit of meat, the protein, in a petri dish.

Which is kinda cool.

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Anywho, would you eat a synthetic burger? Assuming you didn't have to pay for it, obviously.

nope , knowing that some cow was slaughtered / butchered in the production of my burger and upsetting some lentil eating hippy simply adds to the enjoyment of the dish

The only concern I have with the consumption and farming of meat is the environmental sustainability of it. With regards to this I have no idea which side to believe.

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Probably because McDonalds is pretty ropey on the whole would be my guess.

Nah, tasty :) I've gained a few pounds lately though, far from obese* but maybe it's time to cut down on them burgers.

The Whopper on the other hand is one of the greatest inventions mankind has ever come up with imo :lol:

* Asians are genetically more susceptible to obesity-related conditions apparently, a higher percentage of our mass is body fat when compared with Caucasians. So any Asian with a BMI of 23.0 and above has an increased risk of hypertension, heart disease and the like. Mine is 22.8, perilously close to the limit :(

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Anywho, would you eat a synthetic burger? Assuming you didn't have to pay for it, obviously.

nope , knowing that some cow was slaughtered / butchered in the production of my burger and upsetting some lentil eating hippy simply adds to the enjoyment of the dish

Thou made I lol.
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The only concern I have with the consumption and farming of meat is the environmental sustainability of it. With regards to this I have no idea which side to believe.

Environmentally, meat isn't great, especially since the planet has a growing taste for it. We're basically don't have enough space to do everything we want with the world, we don't have the ability to meet the desires of the world if it continues to want to consume more and more meat. It's also a pretty ineffiecient way of putting food on the table, even when you consider that we've manipulated these animals to provide more steak per head to the point that a number of them are basically malformed now.

If you can get the point that we can make beef in a lab, by perfecting this process that is going to lead us a 'synthetic' burger, on a large scale, it'll almost certainly have less environmental impact than raising billions of head of cattle.

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The only concern I have with the consumption and farming of meat is the environmental sustainability of it. With regards to this I have no idea which side to believe.

Environmentally, meat isn't great, especially since the planet has a growing taste for it. We're basically don't have enough space to do everything we want with the world, we don't have the ability to meet the desires of the world if it continues to want to consume more and more meat. It's also a pretty ineffiecient way of putting food on the table, even when you consider that we've manipulated these animals to provide more steak per head to the point that a number of them are basically malformed now.

If you can get the point that we can make beef in a lab, by perfecting this process that is going to lead us a 'synthetic' burger, on a large scale, it'll almost certainly have less environmental impact than raising billions of head of cattle.

But how bad is it, how big a part does it play in global warming and desertification (?), and how urgent is the need to remedy any problems directly caused? These are the questions I find myself unable to answer time and again.

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