‘Hail the stem-cell burger – saviour of our planet’

in BT.com

At £250,000 for a five-ounce patty, the prices might as yet be on the steep side for all but the most overcrowded, no-reservations, shabby-chic Soho burger joint. But if Jamie Oliver catches on, who knows? The sky’s the limit.

Boffins and eggheads in the Netherlands, eschewing the chance to cure, like, AIDS and cancer and stuff, have dedicated themselves to growing meat in petri dishes, taking cells from a dead cow and stimulating them with electricity to encourage muscle-like development, before mixing the results with lab-grown fat, flavourings and powdered egg.

Yummy.

But never mind the enticing preparation techniques, the question, as Jules in ‘Pulp Fiction’ quite rightly insisted, is a simple one: does this make for a tasty burger?

“The bite feels like a conventional hamburger. What was conspicuously different was the flavour,” said Josh Schonwald, a food critic taste-volunteer, echoing the sentiments of anyone in Britain who ever ate at a Wimpy.

So still some work to do, then.

Still, Rome – and the Big Mac – was not built in day, and our meat-magicking Dutch pals will be working around the clock to add improved taste to the impressive look and feel of this amazing product.

Experts say that what is currently missing is the smack of delicious fat that makes a burger such a sinful treat.

Yianni Papoutsis, the obsessive food genius whose Meat Wagon burgers heralded the start of the UK’s gourmet burger craze of the last few years, experimented with fat ratios in the chuck steak he uses until settling on a 15% fat content to produce the perfectly tasty patty. Over to you, scientists.

As it happens, there are other reasons to want this project to succeed beyond that unbeatable taste of a juicy burger.

With the world’s ever-growing population putting pressure on agriculture as never before, it is quite legitimate to ask if it is ethical to eat meat. Not because of the cuddly animals argument, but because the amount of land required to produce beef is so much higher than the equivalent area needed to feed people with other crops.

If people want to eat meat without it costing a fortune in either cash or the effect on the planet, then sooner or later we will need to find other ways of getting it other than from slaughtering cows.

If growing it in a lab is the way to keep those burgers coming then I, for one, am in.

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