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August 6, 2013 by APRIL McCARTHY
Lab-Grown Burgers Finally Unveiled

Dutch scientists finally unveiled the hamburger made from beef grown in a lab--not raised on a farm--that was then cooked and eaten at a West London arts and television studio. The 5oz test-tube burger was made by growing more than 20,000 small strips of muscle tissue from stem cells. Critics claim their safety is unknown.

Created by Dutch researcher Professor Mark Post and his team at Maastricht University, the Netherlands, the cultured beef burger was created from stem cells harvested from two cow organically reared cows.

Post and his team said the muscle is biologically exactly the same as the meat tissue that comes from a cow.

It appeared to have the texture of raw ground beef but was given its pink hue from red beet juice and saffron to make it look more appealing. The patty, which also contained bread crumbs and a binder to hold the meat together, was then fried in sunflower oil and butter and taste-tested by a food writer and a food scientist.

"What we are going to attempt is important because I hope it will show Cultured Beef has the answers to major problems that the world faces," said Professor Mark Post.

The testers described the patty as largely having the texture and juiciness of meat, though not the intense flavor typical of beef. They said the burger needed seasoning.

"Our burger is made from muscle cells taken from a cow. We haven't altered them in any way. For it to succeed it has to look, feel and hopefully taste like the real thing."

The multiyear project, which cost over $300,000 and produced the single patty, was funded by Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

The first-generation products will most likely be ground meat, and a long-term goal is to grow fully developed muscle tissue. Potentially, any animal's muscle tissue could be grown through the in vitro process, even human.

Same Tune As GMO Scientists?

The primary incentive to produce artificial meat for scientists is that they potentially require only one percent of the land used by animal farming, and just four percent of the water. Artificial meat is would not contain any pesticides or herbicides farm animals can ingest, so they would not be passed onto consumers. However, studies establishing safety for human consumption have not been pursued.

On the same tune as those scientists promoting genetically modified foods, Post said that the project highlights the urgent need for sustainable food, adding that the burger represents a crucial first step in finding a sustainable alternative to current meat production processes.

Growing the muscle cells that form meat is relatively easy, according to Dr. Post. Muscle cells divide and organize on their own if they are grown in the proper environment and given an anchor point, like a tendon. Still, Dr. Post and his small team of colleagues have to figure out which type of nutrient solution could be mass produced to anchor and best support the growth of the cells. That remains a mystery.

Post said that the long term goals of the project 'have to be' to grow much larger pieces of meat, such as steaks and chops.

Meat from animals also includes fat and tendons. The scientists now are trying to grow fat as well, which is thought to contribute to the distinctive taste of meat. "Taste is a very complex issue," said Dr. Post.

Critics say the lab-grown beef isn't considered a genetically modified food because the cells in the meat are derived from the same stem cells that grow into muscle cells in cows, however they are artificially produced meaning the consumption will be subjected to fillers and other genetically modified ingredients once they make their way to supermarkets. . Dr. Post said such meat should be as safe as regular beef but that it would take years to know the effect on humans.

Another long-term experiment with mass populations as the guinea pigs? You decide.

April McCarthy is a community journalist playing an active role reporting and analyzing world events to advance our health and eco-friendly initiatives.

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