The world's first lab-grown burger has been cooked and eaten at a news conference in London.

Scientists took cells from a cow and, at an institute in the Netherlands, turned them into strips of muscle that they combined to make a patty.

One food expert said it was "close to meat, but not that juicy" and another said it tasted like a real burger.

Researchers say the technology could be a sustainable way of meeting what they say is a growing demand for meat.

The burger was cooked by chef Richard McGeown, from Cornwall, and tasted by food critics Hanni Ruetzler and Josh Schonwald.

Upon tasting the burger, Austrian food researcher Ms Ruetzler said: "I was expecting the texture to be more soft... there is quite some intense taste; it's close to meat, but it's not that juicy. The consistency is perfect, but I miss salt and pepper.

"This is meat to me. It's not falling apart."

Food writer Mr Schonwald said: "The mouthfeel is like meat. I miss the fat, there's a leanness to it, but the general bite feels like a hamburger.

"What was consistently different was flavour."

Prof Mark Post, of Maastricht University, the scientist behind the burger, remarked: "It's a very good start."

The professor said the meat was made up of tens of billions of lab-grown cells. Asked when lab-grown burgers would reach the market, he said: "I think it will take a while. This is just to show we can do it."

Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, has been revealed as the project's mystery backer. He funded the £215,000 ($330,000) research.

Prof Tara Garnett, head of the Food Policy Research Network at Oxford University, said decision-makers needed to look beyond technological solutions.

"We have a situation where 1.4 billion people in the world are overweight and obese, and at the same time one billion people worldwide go to bed hungry," she said.

"That's just weird and unacceptable. The solutions don't just lie with producing more food but changing the systems of supply and access and affordability, so not just more food but better food gets to the people who need it."

Stem cells are the body's "master cells", the templates from which specialised tissue such as nerve or skin cells develop.

Most institutes working in this area are trying to grow human tissue for transplantation to replace worn-out or diseased muscle, nerve cells or cartilage.

Prof Post is using similar techniques to grow muscle and fat for food.

He starts with stem cells extracted from cow muscle tissue. In the laboratory, these are cultured with nutrients and growth-promoting chemicals to help them develop and multiply. Three weeks later, there are more than a million stem cells, which are put into smaller dishes where they coalesce into small strips of muscle about a centimetre long and a few millimetres thick.

These strips are collected into small pellets, which are frozen. When there are enough, they are defrosted and compacted into a patty just before being cooked.

Because the meat is initially white in colour, Helen Breewood - who works with Prof Post - is trying to make the lab-grown muscle look red by adding the naturally-occurring compound myoglobin.

"If it doesn't look like normal meat, if it doesn't taste like normal meat, it's not... going to be a viable replacement," she said.

She added: "A lot of people consider lab-grown meat repulsive at first. But if they consider what goes into producing normal meat in a slaughterhouse, I think they would also find that repulsive."

Currently, this is a work in progress. The burger revealed on Monday was coloured red with beetroot juice. The researchers have also added breadcrumbs, caramel and saffron, which were intended to add to the taste, although Ms Ruetzler said she could not taste these.

At the moment, scientists can only make small pieces of meat; larger ones would require artificial circulatory systems to distribute nutrients and oxygen.

In a statement, animal welfare campaigners People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) said: "[Lab-grown meat] will spell the end of lorries full of cows and chickens, abattoirs and factory farming. It will reduce carbon emissions, conserve water and make the food supply safer."

Critics of the technology say that eating less meat would be an easier way to tackle predicted food shortages.

The latest United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report on the future of agriculture indicates that most of the predicted growth in demand for meat from China and Brazil has already happened and many Indians are wedded to their largely vegetarian diets for cultural and culinary reasons.

Source : BBC News

Comments : I personally appreciate this research, but I won’t eat this kind of lab-grown meat. I prefer green vegetables and fresh fruits. What’s your opinion? Please share your opinion by comment below!

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I mean, I personally would probably not eat it.  However, I think it's a step forward in helping to end animal cruelty in these industries.  Hopefully they can get to a point where animal cruelty is eliminated from the meat industry.  

Obviously a better solution for the animals which is great. But I wouldn't eat it cos meat is linked to so many diseases and because it repulses me :)

I wouldn't eat it. It's too artificial for me. Fruits and vegetables are simple and tasty. In general, I think if you made a decision to be vegetarian, stay away from those fake meats, and if you can't live without the taste or consistency of meat, don't go vegetarian.

disturbing idea, in the same lines as 'GMO'  and really ... what is the point ... are meat eaters really going to convert to a lab grown meat ... is it that important for them to eat meat?  Its so easy and healthy to be vegetarian, better for individuals and the planet

if it leads away from eating animals, it's a good thing. it's weird, but that's technology for ya.

the key point here is that you don't have to kill an animal to eat meat, but the real point in that is no killing.

so, what if the whole world stopped killing animals for food...would it still reduce killing period? there are still humans being killed in wars. so are vegans concerned with the number of total deaths of living beings in the world or are they only concerned with animals not being killed? that would be my question.

as far as I can see, I can't forsee that killing less animals will contribute to killing less humans in war, so I am not that impressed by people eating lab meat, other than it is a plus point that they don't have to kill an animal. but we need to emphasize the cruelty in killing period, and less about the eating of meat. so in that way, I think the lab meat will help us out. but I still think that people who eat meat without killing are not wrong. this lab meat thing might show that.

That's just to strange

id eat it no bother at all, it didnt die screaming so id have an auld crack at it

I've try one assuming there were no health effects worse than that of regular meat just out of curiosity. I doubt I would implement it into my diet though.

How about this: If you could donate your own cells or maybe an other human would have deliberately gave it to these scientists to grow these burgers would you eat it?

I think if the cells are taken from animals, they are exploited, too. So it reduces their suffering, but it doesn't make them free. So I think it's not fine to take cells from animals, without their approval. 

I don't think it's very nutritious, so why bother eating it?

It's a great start, though.

Since this will probably be cheaper to produce than grow animals and kill them, ppl will buy more of this. From the reduction of demand, the supply will go down, and the prices will grow more (because mass production is cheaper). So gradually, natural meat will become as wide spread as natural caviar and will become a luxury...

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