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World's first lab-grown burger cooked and eaten

The world's first lab-grown burger -- a €250,000 piece of meat -- has been cooked and eaten after five years in development.

David Parry/PA Wire

At 1pm on Monday, 5 August, professor Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands unveiled the in vitro burger, a project that he and his team have been working on for years.

The meat was painstakingly created from just a few cells taken from two living cows. These cells were grown into thin strands of muscle tissue in culture dishes. It takes around 20,000 such strands to make a burger. As you can imagine, this process is quite slow, as well as being vastly expensive; at this point, the burger is standing as a proof of concept rather than a finished, consumer-ready product.

The meat was mixed with breadcrumbs and a binding agent, as well as beetroot juice and saffron to give it more colour; the lab-grown meat without colouring looked pale and unappetising.

(Credit: David Parry/PA Wire)

The burger was tasted by two independent volunteers, food writer Josh Schonwald and nutrition researcher Hanni Rützler, who both tucked straight into the meat without adding salad or condiments.

"I was expecting the texture to be more soft, there's really a bite to it," Rützler said. "There is quite some flavour with the browning. I know there is no fat in it, so I didn't know how juicy it would be, but there is quite some intense taste. It's close to meat, it's not that juicy, but the consistency is perfect. I miss salt and pepper."

Schonwald added, "The texture, the mouth feel, has a feel like meat ... the absence is I feel like the fat, it's a leanness to it. But the bite feels like a conventional hamburger ... I think fat is a big part of what is right."

Post noted in response that yes, the fat is an important part of meat, and the team is working on growing fat cells to give the meat that juiciness, but the process will take another few months. Since the burger is in no way ready for mass production, that timeline doesn't seem like too much of a problem.

Lab-created meat is increasingly under research. It is believed that growing meat in a lab rather than raising livestock will be better for the environment, eliminating the greenhouse gases caused by livestock and freeing up some of the land resources, as well as providing cruelty-free meat. In addition, it hopes to take some of the pressure off feeding the world; and, because the meat is carefully constructed, it can be healthier for you to eat.

Getting the Western world to eat lab-grown meat from a Petri dish will probably be a darn sight easier than trying to convince them to eat fly larvae, too.

You can watch the event for yourself on the Cultured Beef website.