Back in March, I did a two-part post about new foods. They weren’t new exactly: they were either old food with new names (like Chilean Sea Bass) or food that was new to me (like quinoa). This post, however, is about food that is literally new, as in “not having previously existed.”
And that food is…(drum roll, please)… a hamburger!
Yes, folks, some scientists at Maastricht University in the Netherlands spent almost £250,000 (about $360,000) developing something that’s already on the dollar menu at McDonalds. And it took them five years to do it, which I’m pretty sure would get them fired at Mickey D’s.
I kid, of course. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, this was no ordinary burger. For one thing, there was no cheese. And, let’s see, what else? Oh, yeah–it was made from “in vitro meat.”
That would be meat that is grown from muscle stem cells in a lab. In other words, the very same stem cell research that may one day extend our lives with all sorts of miracle cures may kill us first with all sorts of ridiculous foods.
I’m not a gourmet, but if there are two words I don’t want associated with my burgers, it’s “grown” and “lab.”
Recognizing that the market for in vitro meat would be seriously limited if people thought they were eating test tube babies, the scientists have come up with another name for it–“cultured beef”–which makes it sound like it’s from regular cows who just happen to enjoy the ballet.
Generously, Maastricht University has put the recipe for its cultured beef burgers right online so that anybody with some muscle stem cells in their fridge and a lot of free time on their hands can cook up “edible muscle tissue that can be ground to create minced meat and, ultimately, a tasty hamburger!”
The recipe includes steps like:
“…the creation of soluble polymer (sugar chain) duct systems through which a medium can flow, similar to the way blood flows through our veins.”
“…To make the tissue edible, taste and texture must be just right. This should be achieved by recreating the natural consistency of meat (in terms of protein composition, fat tissue, etc.). If this does not produce the desired result, accepted food technology methods are used to improve the taste and texture of the meat.”
Oh, and don’t forget to add a dash of salt along with those “food technology methods.”
Anyway, the inventors of this delicious-sounding creation threw a big media event at which a food trend expert and a food writer got to taste one of these Frankenburgers, and I do mean “one,” because that’s all they’d been able to make. In five years.
Well, okay, four years and nine months of that was inventing the process. The specific burger at the media event took only three months to make using “20,000 small strands of meat grown from a cow’s muscle cells.” Plus, somebody had to bake a bun.
The burger at the media event, which, as I said, cost £250,000 to develop, was five ounces. If my math is correct, that comes out to about 800,000 pounds per pound.
You may be wondering why I’ve been writing in British currency. Well, it’s because this big media event was held in London. Now you may be wondering why a Dutch university held its big media event in London. The answer to that is obvious: where else but in England would you find food experts who might possibly find that your meatish, beeflike patty compares favorably to what they usually eat?
The plan may have backfired however. The first expert raved: “definitely beef rather than a vegetable-based substitute.” The second described the texture as “an animal protein cake.” Keep in mind that this is coming from people who enjoy dishes with names like “Bubble and Squeak,” described thusly:
“Typically made from cold vegetables that have been left over from a previous meal, often the Sunday roast…The cold chopped vegetables (and cold chopped meat if used) are fried in a pan together with mashed potato until the mixture is well-cooked and brown on the sides. The name is a description of the action and sound made during the cooking process”
That sort of makes “animal protein cake” sound like a delicacy.
Anyway, the scientists said that there’s no reason why they can’t use this process to make lion burgers, penguin burgers, or any-kind-of-animal burgers, which I guess means that, eventually, Jeffrey Dahmer can enjoy his favorite cuisine without even breaking the law.
Seriously, though, once they figure out how to make this stuff more efficiently, it could have a huge positive impact on the environment and on reducing world hunger.
It could, but they’re going to need a hell of a lot of special sauce.
See you soon.