Test-tube burger

No, those headlines weren’t a joke. (As much as you might want them to be.) And of course, you had to know I was going to comment on them.

In case you haven’t heard, researchers fried up the world’s first lab-grown burger ever earlier this month. That’s right. They created it in vitro from cattle stem cells. The final price tag for this five year culinary experiment: about $332,000.

I don’t know about you, but I thought the $26 dollar burger at Minetta Tavern was expensive. (Delicious, but a lot of money for a burger, no?) At around $700 a pop, even the burger formerly known as the “world’s most expensive burger” is no competition.

Anyway, this “hamburger” patty is an amalgam of tens of thousands of strands of lab-grown protein along with a handful of typical burger additives. (Salt, breadcrumbs, egg powder–with beet juice and saffron for color.)

And of course, the first taste test was a big affair, complete with TV cameras and worldwide media coverage. (Yes, two brave souls actually volunteered for this job.)

The verdict? Not terribly enthusiastic. Apparently, the test-tube burger tasted “close to meat”–which, frankly, is still a whole lot better than I would have guessed.

Still, you have to hand it to the Dutch scientist behind this experiment. His intentions–namely, to take a bite out of the environmental and economic cost of modern meat production–were noble.

The World Health Organization (WHO) expects the meat industry to boom over the next two decades, up to a whopping 376 million metric tons annually. And considering the massive impact that this business already has on the environment, it’s pretty easy to understand any efforts to slow it down.

Recent reports indicate that industrialized agriculture is a major contributor to a long list of serious modern crises–from global warming and pollution to deforestation and land degradation.

Now, I’m really not trying to be a downer here. But research also suggests that meat production and vegetable production contribute about equally to global greenhouse gas emissions, when all is said and done. (You might remember that I wrote about this issue a few months ago. Green conundrum)

Suffice it to say that I’m not convinced that a test-tube burger–or any other Frankenfood for that matter–is the answer to our problems in the climate change department. (To say nothing about how it might affect our health.)

All I know is that, for $300,000, the thing better at least taste good.

Kelland, Kate. “First taste of test-tube burger declared ‘close to meat.'” Reuters. 5 Aug. 2013.