Tag Archives: hamburger

artificial burger

First artificial ‘meat’ burger, cultured in a petri dish, tasted by panel of experts

A few years ago ZME Science reported how a group of researchers at University of Maastricht in Holland were on a mission to grow the first lab cultured ‘hamburger’. After five years of painstaking work and €250,000 invested (backed by Google’s Sergey Brin), an edible version was finally developed and what better way to put it to test than…eat it! As such,  a food writer, a food researcher, and a scientist each tasted an artificial hamburger  at a press event in London.

First off, though: how do you grow a hamburger?  Maastricht University’s Professor Mark Post, the leading researchers behind the project, and colleagues used stem cells collected from leftovers picked up from slaughterhouses. The cells were then placed in a petri dish arranged inside a cylindrical gel scaffold where they fed on a nutrient mix, including fetal bovine serum and antibiotics. From here on, the hardest part is over (offering the right conditions), as the cells naturally contract and divide eventually growing into a strand of muscle tissue. Actually, the there’s not much of a limit to how much muscle can grow. According to Post, with the right scaffold and nutrients, you could grow 10 tons of meat if you’d like.

Why on Earth would someone go through the hurdles of growing meat in a lab? For one, the meat industry today is insanely despicable. Animals grown for meat (cattle, sheep, chickens) are mostly treated in grave, inhumane conditions and are fed with copious amounts of antibiotics to make them more resistant. Since the animals are stressed, pumped with chemicals and lack the necessary muscle exercise, the meat is a lot less tasty and nutritious as freerange grown. Then there’s practical reasons. Immense amounts of resources are used in meat production, from water (Approximately 75 per cent of the available freshwater in the world is being used by agriculture) to land (If the world’s population today were to eat a Western diet of roughly 80 kilograms of meat per capita per year, the global agricultural land required for production would be about 2.5 billion hectares – two thirds more than is presently used).

You might be convinced to try the lab grown hamburger, but wait till you taste it. Unsurprisingly, according to the reviewers, it’s not the tastiest burger you’ll ever get the chance to eat – to say the least! The team comprised of Chicago food writer, Josh Schonwald, nutrition researcher, Hanni Rützler, and a chef, Richard McGeown, actually cooked the burger in front of a live audience of journalists.

For one, you might be discouraged by the fact that it doesn’t look like meat (the lab grown meat doesn’t have any blood). No problem, just add some beet juice and saffron for coloring – good, looks like meat now. It also cooked like meat, behaving like its natural counterpart in the frying pan. The thing is , though, it also lacks fat, which is greatly responsible for the flavoring meat eaters cherish. Rützler and Schonwald agreed the texture was very meaty but lean and not terribly juicy.

In all, definitely not ready for the grocery store, but promising enough for a first public attempt. In the future, Post noted that he and his team will work on adding fat, remove antibiotics and fetal bovine serum. The concept has been proved, it’s now time to perfect the process. Of course, if you can culture cow meat, you can just as well do the same for pork or chicken. The researchers warn however that it might ten to twenty years before the first artificial meat might heat groceries stores.

Grilled burgers

Grilled burgers pollute more than diesel trucks in Southern California

Grilled burgers

When you think of air pollution, inevitably your mind wanders to huge, fume spilling power stations, old motor trucks and other nasty things in these lines. Surprisingly enough, researchers at University of California, Riverside, found that charbroiled burgers, chicken, and steaks are behind much of Southern California’s air pollution, topping even diesel engines.

These findings were made after UC Riverside scientists conducted a study on commercial cooking emissions. They found that the particle emissions end up in high amount in the atmosphere, ultimately contributing more than diesel engines to the area’s ongoing air pollution problem.

“Emissions from commercial charbroilers are a very significant uncontrolled source of particulate matter…more than twice the contribution by all of the heavy-duty diesel trucks,” said Bill Welch, principal development engineer for the study at UC Riverside’s Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-Cert). “For comparison, an 18-wheeler diesel-engine truck would have to drive 143 miles on the freeway to put out the same mass of particles as a single charbroiled hamburger patty.”

That’s a thought worth chewing for a bit, maybe during your next launch break at your local diner. The researchers found that during the grilling of meat, grease, smoke, heat, water vapor, and combustion products are released, in high amounts since no kind of regulations are in place at the moment. Filtering equipment is expensive, and in lack of a legal constriction or know-how for that matter, restaurant owners and cooking equipment producers alike have no intentions in making these more environmental friendly.

In 2007, the San Joaquin Valley  Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD), one of the partners which offered funding for this present study, reported that  commercial cooking is second-largest source of particulate matter in the South Coast Air Basin.

A solution has already been proposed and is currently in testing phase – a device that removes grease from the exhaust and traps it in water. Testing, of course, involves grilling a lot of hamburgers or the likes, which UC Riverside scientists say will donated to a Redlands Regional food bank.


Video: the hidden environmental cost of hamburgers

Americans love hamburgers – probably too much. The average American eats 3 hamburgers a week – do the math, and that’s over 48 billion hamburgers per year – in the US alone! Furthermore, even though hamburgers are cheap, what you don’t pay at the counter is charged in other ways: on your body, your health, and even more globally significant: on the environment. Here’s a short video thoroughly explaining what you most likely don’t know about hamburger mass production, and how much we really pay for a hamburger.

First lab-grown hamburger will cost £200,000

Mark Post is a vascular scientists at the University of Maastricht in Holland. His plan is to create a lab-grown hamburger, just to prove that it could be done.

It won’t come cheap though – not by any standards. Post estimates that it will cost some €250,000 to assemble the thin layers of muscle strips packed together with some lab-grown fat. The muscle strips will come from stem cells harvested leftovers picked up from slaughterhouses.

“The first one will be a proof of concept, just to show it’s possible”, Post declared. “I believe I can do this in the coming year”.

The stem cells will be left to grow in a ‘soup’ made of sugars, amino acids, lipids and minerals until they grow up to 2.5 cm long and 1 cm wide, and so thin that you can partially see through them. Due to their thinness, some 3000 will be required to assemble a full grown hamburger. But it won’t look like an average burger, because the meat will have no blood.

This process is made harder by the fact that lab-grown strips act just like real muscle – if they aren’t exercised, they will eventually waste away. In order to avoid this, Post plans to stretch them in a Petri dish to provide additional resistance due to their natural tendency to contract.

It might be very expensive, but then again, this could be the first step towards a new generation of hamburgers, Post believes.

“This first one will be grown in an academic lab, by highly trained academic staff,” Post said. “It’s hand-made and it’s time and labour-intensive, that’s why it’s so expensive to produce.”

Also, the taste isn’t spectacular either. A Russian reporter who had the pleasure of tasting the strips wasn’t impressed by the experience; but Post explains that the matter of taste hasn’t been taken into consideration just yet.

“That’s not a trivial thing and it needs to be worked on.”

Artificial meat research is still in its infancy, and even though it is currently believed that processed meat, such as sausages might be easier to create in a lab, researchers have hope for different types of meat; one of the early goals is to make processed meats healthier, with less saturated fats and more nutrients and polyunsaturated fats.

However, in the long run, the best improvements could be the reduction of energy consumption, and the sparring of animals. Hanna Tuomisto, a food researcher, conducted an extremely interesting study which concluded that growing some of our favorite foods in vitro would use 35 to 60 percent less energy, emit 80 to 95 percent less greenhouse gases and use around 98 percent less land than normal animal meat. Given the growth of the population of our planet, this might not only become useful, but also necessary.