60% say bring on the lab-grown burgers

Does the science-fiction factor outweigh the benefits of shunning livestock beef? New polls suggest that people are remaining open-minded.

It’s a crazy world when the creator of a much buzzed about food item doesn’t hold the title of “chef” or “home cook,” but this: Chair of the department of physiology and professor of vascular physiology and tissue engineering, Maastricht University.

Which is the position held by Dr. Mark J. Post who is working on his recipe for a $300,000 cultured hamburger. News of the pricey test-tube burger isn't new, but at a recent presentation at the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) conference in Chicago, Post said the products will not only come down in price, but will someday make it to market.

"It's realistic that we can do this. We're starting a company to do this. Initially, it's going to be a very expensive product but given there's a hamburger in one restaurant for $450, there's a market for them."

And he may be right. A Guardian reader survey – as well as an independent survey in the Netherlands – reveals that more than 60 percent of consumers asked said they would buy and eat a cultured burger. And as food shortages meet an increased demand for meat (and the beef industry remains rife with cruelty) maybe there's something to alternative meat production.

So exactly what is this cultured burger? Post and his team used stem cells from a cow to grow muscle fiber in the shape of a donut. As of yet, it’s missing the fat that gives a burger its flavor, but he’s, “redesigning models and cell sources to create tasty fat content for his burger” currently, according to a press statement, and when offered to celebrity chefs and random tasters in London last year, they didn’t reject it outright.

"They came up with the same analysis as me, 'it's OK, it's much better than any other replacement we've seen but it's not there yet.'"

Post is enthusiastic that early fans of the burgers will convince others to consider it and even overcome the creeps about where it came from.

"We eat livestock beef because we like it," Post said. "Once you have alternatives, you can no longer do that. Eventually, the ethical dilemma will be for cultured beef versus livestock beef."

Personally, I don’t eat beef so I won’t be faced with this dilemma, but what about you beef eaters out there? With all of the ethical and environmental issues surrounding the consumption of livestock beef, what’s better in your mind: To eat beef raised in real life or to opt for meat produced in a lab? And vegetarians, would you try it?

Tags: Agriculture | Vegetarian

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