It’s the question that was on everybody’s lips after scientists recently unveiled the world’s first hamburger made from meat grown in a laboratory.
In vitro, cultured and “cruelty-free” meat marks the dawn of a new era, at least according to the tissue engineer who created it, Professor Mark Post of Maastricht University. He says lab-grown meat could appear in supermarkets in the next 10-20 years.
“Current meat production is at its maximum and is not going to supply sufficient meat for the growing demand in the next 40 years, so we need to come up with an alternative. This is an ethical and an environmentally friendly way to produce meat.”
The world is set to consume twice as much meat by 2050 and as the price of meat increases alongside that demand, soon we may have no choice but to chow down on cultured beef, lamb, pork, chicken, fish – and any other kinds of animal we feel like eating.
Although the burger was the result of a five-year research project, it took just three months to grow the meat using stem cells harvested from a cow’s shoulder. That’s quicker than raising a cow and far less resource intensive.
Proponents argue the creation of synthetic meat in a laboratory would be better for the planet, with the land currently being used to farm livestock could be used for the less resource intensive farming of crops.
Could the new Frankenburger help solve world hunger and slow down climate change? First we need an answer to the most important question…
So far the reviews have been decidedly mixed. Served the lab-grown beef at a function in London, American food writer Josh Schonwald struggled to describe the taste.
“It lacks flavour”, he said. “It has a middling flavour like pasta or an animal protein cake. It wasn’t unpleasant.”
Meanwhile, nutritional scientist Hanni Rutzler described the burger as “close to meat, but not as juicy”. She went on to say that the beef patty was surprisingly crunchy, not soft as you would expect.
Everything tastes better with tomato sauce, right? Even so, this is a burger that’s likely to divide opinion – does it represent an undemanding means of feeding the entire world or does it all just seem a little, well, gross?
And if you stop to think about it, is the idea of steaks grown in a laboratory any worse than the thought of the bloody slaughter of an animal?
What do you think?
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