Lab-grown beef could start food revolution

LONDON - Scientists yesterday unveiled the world's first lab-grown beef patty, serving it up to volunteers in London in what they hope is the start of a food revolution.

The 140g patty, which cost more than 250,000 euros (S$420,600) to produce, was made using strands of meat grown from muscle cells taken from a live cow.

Mixed with salt, egg powder and breadcrumbs to improve the taste, and coloured with red beetroot juice and saffron, researchers said it will taste similar to a normal beef patty.

Professor Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, whose lab developed the meat, said the meat is safe and has the potential to replace normal meat in the diets of millions of people.

He showed it at a news conference in a TV studio and served the patty to two volunteers, United States-based food author Josh Schonwald and Austrian food researcher Hanni Ruetzler.

Ms Ruetzler said: "I was expecting the texture to be softer... 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 and pepper!"

Mr Sergey Brin, one of Google's co-founders, was revealed to be one of the financial backers of the project.

There are concerns that the growing demand for meat is putting unsustainable pressure on the planet, both through the food required for the animals and the methane gas they produce, which contributes to global warming.

Prof Post said ahead of yesterday's event: "What we are going to attempt is important, because I hope it will show that cultured beef has the answers to major problems that the world faces."

The team in Maastricht took cells from organic cows and placed them in a nutrient solution to create muscle tissue. They then grew them into small strands of meat, 20,000 of which were required to make the patty.

Although it is very expensive, the cost of cultured beef is likely to fall as more are produced and the team said it could be available in supermarkets within 10 to 20 years.

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