Can Science Build a Better Burger?
A big reason to move away from meat made from whole animals is waste. “Throwing food away is a horrible idea,” he says. “But that’s basically the relationship all of us enter into every time we choose to eat meat.” To get one calorie of meat from a chicken means putting in nine calories of feed. And chicken is one of the more efficient meats. Why not create just the pieces of an animal that people could eat?
Scientists have already proved that this is, sort of, possible. The first lab-cultured burger publicly unveiled, in 2013, required hand assembly of some 20,000 individual muscle cells at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Producing and testing cost donor and Google cofounder Sergey Brin 250,000 euros.
The flavor was “surprisingly close” to regular ground beef, says the first person to taste cultured beef in public, food trend researcher Hanni Rützler of Vienna. It might have tasted more burgerlike, she says, if its scientist-creators had allowed the chef to mix in some onions and discernible seasoning. Beet juice was permitted for pinkness (that early burger hadn’t grown enough of the protein myoglobin, which gives meat its color).