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Test Tube Burgers May Help Save the Planet, but Not Until They Taste Better

Would you eat this burger if the meat was grown in a lab?
Would you eat this burger if the meat was grown in a lab?
Catherine Downes

News broke this week that a lab at Maastricht University in the Netherlands produced the world's first petri-dish "beef" burger. Mark Post and his team used cells harvested from a cow's shoulder to grow enough muscle tissue to make a burger patty in just three months. It was less than perfect.

For starters, the meat was 100 percent lean beef and contained no fat. A panel that tasted the patty noted its excessive dryness. The meat also needed to be augmented with beet juice and saffron in order to be visually appealing. Without the coloring, the muscle tissue would have been stark white.

Yum.

Still, the proof of concept is being touted as a potentially significant step in the battle against global warming. Cows, it turns out, emit gas from both ends, and the cumulative effect of these greenhouse gasses is said to rival the entire transportation sector. The fact raises the question: How would average Dallasites react if they were forced to choose between their burgers and their SUVs?

Of course if we could grow perfectly delicious beef in labs, we could have plenty of burgers and gasoline till the end of time, but there's some work to be done on that very important "delicious" part. Josh Schonwald, a Chicago-based food writer who was invited to taste the patty, timidly said "the mouth feel has... a feel like meat," and compared the experience to a dry, "conventional" burger.

Not exactly decadent.


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