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Engineering the $325,000 Burger 353

Posted by samzenpus
from the hold-the-cheese dept.
Dr. Mark Post hopes to bring the dream of cultured meat one step closer to reality when he unveils his high tech hamburger in London. The five ounce burger is composed of 20,000 strips of beef muscle tissue grown in a laboratory at a cost of $325,000 (provided by an anonymous donor.) From the article: "The hamburger, assembled from tiny bits of beef muscle tissue grown in a laboratory and to be cooked and eaten at an event in London, perhaps in a few weeks, is meant to show the world — including potential sources of research funds — that so-called in-Vitro meat, or cultured meat, is a reality."
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Engineering the $325,000 Burger

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  • I hope (Score:5, Funny)

    by rossdee (243626) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @05:10PM (#43704407)

    You get lots of fries for that price

    (And your coke in a real glass, not a plastic cup)

    • Re:I hope (Score:5, Funny)

      by maxwell demon (590494) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @05:14PM (#43704447) Journal

      But then, it's not made out of animals. So it's clearly vegetarian food.

      • Re:I hope (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ArcadeMan (2766669) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @05:22PM (#43704497)

        Some people don't eat meat and animal products for health reasons, others for ethical reasons. So I think this will split the vegetarians and vegans into four groups:
        - health issues vegetarian
        - health issues vegan
        - ethical vegetarian
        - ethical vegan

        • Re:I hope (Score:5, Insightful)

          by maxwell demon (590494) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @05:34PM (#43704567) Journal

          Of course there are also the people who think that any food that has even just come close to a lab is the devil. That group might have a considerable (but not complete) overlap with the ethical vegetarians/vegans.

        • Re:I hope (Score:5, Funny)

          by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @05:52PM (#43704695)

          - ethical vegetarian
          - ethical vegan

          Things that I eat include:
          - edible vegetarian
          - edible vegan

        • Some people don't eat meat and animal products for health reasons, others for ethical reasons. So I think this will split the vegetarians and vegans into four groups:
          - health issues vegetarian
          - health issues vegan
          - ethical vegetarian
          - ethical vegan

          Theres also political. I've known many vegans and the ones I've known treat it more like a political movement than a dietary discipline. I guess you might put that under 'ethical' but I think they get so carried away on their ethics that really it becomes political.

        • If I recall correctly, awhile back PETA stepped into this and offered some prize for whoever could make commercially viable vat grown meat, and a bunch of PETA members flipped out. I'm not sure what exactly their reasonings were, but they didn't like it.

          • by omnichad (1198475)

            Because there's plenty of people who do things like eat vegetarian just to have an identity and a common interest with other people.

        • Re:I hope (Score:5, Funny)

          by AdamWill (604569) on Monday May 13, 2013 @02:04AM (#43707455) Homepage

          You forgot '- think that eating seafood and the occasional hamburger counts as vegetarian'

        • And of course:

          - religious vegetarian
          - religious vegan
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by LurkerXXX (667952)

        The ethical ones will likely still have issues.

        Ever grow tissue culture cells? I didn't think so.

        Your going to be feeding them regularly with a media composed of a number of things. One of those things is going to be horse/bovine serum. Lots of blood components went into it. One of the reasons that the burger is so expensive.

        • Re:I hope (Score:5, Informative)

          by Cyberax (705495) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @07:11PM (#43705179)
          I used to work in a company that grows animal tissue cultures. You certainly CAN grow lots of tissue types without horse serum or any animal-related products. In fact, lots of lab protocols require that.
          • I used to work in a company that grows animal tissue cultures. You certainly CAN grow lots of tissue types without horse serum or any animal-related products. In fact, lots of lab protocols require that.

            Cyberax is correct, and the main driving force behind the shift has been the FDA; they've been pushing hard for chemically-defined culture media, with elimination of serum-type materials whenever possible. Although bio-pharm materials are closely examined for both known and unknown pathogens, their concern is that animal derived substances may yet harbor pathogens too novel to be detected by conventional methods. We're used to defined media for microbes being simple and cheap, but the ones used for mammal

      • by guttentag (313541)

        But then, it's not made out of animals. So it's clearly vegetarian food.

        No, it is made out of animals. From TFA:

        But the meat is produced with materials — including fetal calf serum, used as a medium in which to grow the cells — that eventually would have to be replaced by similar materials of non-animal origin.

        Vegetarians love fetal calf serum. It just sounds so tasty, natural and cruelty-free!

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        I love vegetarians... they go great with catsup!

    • Re:I hope (Score:5, Funny)

      by femtobyte (710429) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @05:15PM (#43704457)

      You get lots of fries for that price

      Yep, you get plenty of fries from a parallel research project, codenamed "raise dolphins that grow potato tumors and kill them to make fries," thanks to a generous donation from the Society for the Promotion of Cruelty to Animals.

    • I think you mean real coke in a real glass.

  • Japanese (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) *

    The Japanese will love this - while it's expensive. When it gets cheap, expect McDonald's to start quietly using it...

    • by iggymanz (596061)

      if it tastes as good as dead animal muscles and has equivalent or better nutritional value, I'm all for it

      • by peragrin (659227)

        nutritional value is easy enough. However taste is another matter. If you have ever had ground steak, ground burger, and ground venison, you can taste the difference. muscle that has been grown invitro I expect will have it's own unique taste, Electrical stimulus exercises isn't the same as an animal running through a field.

        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          Since it seems that this is all from one type of cell, I imagine it doesn't taste that good. Real meat has not only muscle tissue, but fat tissue, connective tissue, blood, and many other things included in it. Which probably brings up a nutritional question as well. They still haven't made baby formula that has all the same stuff as a mother's milk, and doctors still say that breast fed babies are better off. I don't imagine that this will be able to completely replace all meat and still keep us healthy.
          • by peragrin (659227)

            while your correct about mother milk, the real benefit of a mothers milk is compatible antibodies that jump start the immune system.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This might be a very cardboard and dry burger - all meat tissues, no fat.
      Japanese would prefer something of quality and not just because something is expensive. They have their Kobe beef. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kobe_beef

      • Re:Japanese (Score:5, Interesting)

        by DasSquid (2425496) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @10:37PM (#43706387)
        The main issue with Kobe beef is that... well... it is all marketing. I live in Japan and I import meat from Australia, I know the industry well. The cultural difference between here and Australia in regards to agriculture is mind blowing. In Japan, tradition is king. If you do not do what your region/your family tells you, then the price of your cow will plummet, I've been to the cattle auctions here and they really are an interesting artifact.

        As per the wiki article, the Tajima cow is the only cow considered for this meat, what it fails to mention is that the Tajima is just an Angus, and indeed an Angus that is brought up in conditions I do not agree with. They are brought up in a very small area, not allowed to exercise so as to get that delicious marbling. After visiting these farms I feel much better about how my cows are brought up in Australia, with one cow having an average of 2 acres as opposed to 20 square feet.

        Anyway, rant aside Kobe beef just isn't all that good in comparison to the other meats available in Japan as they're all the same damned breed being brought up exactly the same, Japanese tradition just dictates that it's more expensive and 'better'.

    • Quietly? I think it will be marketed explicitly and will sell well. Not everyone is repulsed by the concept. They'll need to keep such meat labs more sterile than your average slaughterhouse: if they don't, the meat cells will be overrun by bacteria. And the final product will be more consistent, you have no chance of getting bone or brains or intestines or tendons in there. If you don't want to, that is. I guess haggis wouldn't be the same.
    • expect McDonald's to start quietly using it

      Who did you think funded the research?

  • a couple of problems (Score:3, Interesting)

    by iggymanz (596061) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @05:17PM (#43704465)

    the nanny-state mentality that is gripping government first world countries will soon forbid the growing of beef-life tissue because of its increasing the risk of arterial clogging, etc.

    the second is a quality consideration, I will accept nothing less than the flavor and texture of the very finest beef cuts in vat cultured tissue. else I will continue to support the inhumane raising and slaughtering of cattle. Also, I reserve the right to throw tissue cultures on the grill over charcoal, concerns of carcinogens be damned.

    • by westlake (615356)

      the nanny-state mentality that is gripping government first world countries will soon forbid the growing of beef-life tissue because of its increasing the risk of arterial clogging, etc.

      When the state is paying the medical bills for tens or hundreds of millions of people why shouldn't it have a say in the sale and marketing of products which increase its costs?

    • by MikShapi (681808)

      You already live in a nanny state. It's just that your nanny state is lobbied by and promotes the interests of those who lace their food with sugar. Which is "only" 70% of food in a rich neighbourhood, and 100% of food in a poorer one. How many choices do the people in those neighbourhoods have? None really.

      See this : http://www.youtube.com/playlist?annotation_id=annotation_286965&feature=iv&list=PL39F782316B425249&src_vid=h0zD1gj0pXk [youtube.com]
      (they only really start saying something in the second bit onw

  • So... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Guinness Beaumont (2901413) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @05:21PM (#43704489)
    Does this meat technically qualify as vegetarian, as no animal was killed to make it?
    • Re:So... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by femtobyte (710429) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @05:26PM (#43704517)

      Given the wide range of positions that fall under the broad banner "vegetarian" (do you eat eggs? dairy? fish?), there is no one correct "technical qualification". Likely, vegetarians closer to the "fundamentalist vegan" side will consider this an unacceptable animal product, while vegetarians closer to the "I still sometimes have a BLT because bacon tastes so good" school will embrace the concept.

    • Re:So... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by kwerle (39371) <kurt@CircleW.org> on Sunday May 12, 2013 @06:43PM (#43704999) Homepage Journal

      Yes*

      * Unless you don't think so.

      I don't eat meat because I find animal food farming in this country (the US) abhorrant. I don't eat well treated food animals (free range, wild hunted, etc) because I find it simpler to draw the line at "I don't eat meat".

      I'm looking forward to commonly available vat-grown beef. Once the price point hits a reasonable level, I think I will partake. Other people won't feel the same way.

      • I don't eat well treated food animals (free range, wild hunted, etc) because I find it simpler to draw the line at "I don't eat meat".

        It's your choice, of course, and I totally understand why you would say that while in public (it does simplify the explanation), but there's no reason to deny yourself those things at home. I have a local source for pastured chickens. They're delicious.

  • From Better Off TED: http://youtu.be/ezEMnzmDYZU [youtu.be]
  • by Type44Q (1233630) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @05:43PM (#43704643)

    The price is perfectly realistic, really; in fact, it's quite well thought-out. By the time these are ready for large-scale roll-out, inflation will have caught up nicely.

  • If they followed the lead of other UK burger manufacturers and they used horse meat instead.

  • Obligatory (Score:5, Informative)

    by guttentag (313541) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @05:53PM (#43704703) Journal
    Ted: "We're talking about growing meat in a lab without cows."
    Linda: "Ugh! That's creepy!... Right?... Oh, I see, we're doing that."

    Artificial Beef Taste Tester: "It tastes... familiar..."
    Ted: "Beef?"
    Taste Tester: "No..."
    Linda: "Chicken? We'll take chicken."
    Taste Tester: Shakes his head
    Ted: "What does it taste like?"
    Taste Tester: "Despair?"
    Ted: "Is it possible it just needs salt?"
    Taste Tester: Shakes his head very slowly

    Better Off Ted, Season 1 Episode 2
  • by multiben (1916126) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @05:55PM (#43704713)
    I feel that eating meat which was not once running through the fields, robs me of the deep sense of superiority I get from being at the top of the food chain. Who knows how long we may remain here (alien invasion or pending zombie apocalypse)? I say let's enjoy our dominant position while we have it and not waste our time on defenseless lab meat.
  • Bacon ftw. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Nyder (754090) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @06:00PM (#43704745) Journal

    First they replaced my natural flavor with imitation, and I ate it anyways.
    Second they replaced sugar with corn syrup, and I kept on getting fatter.
    Then they replaced my natural crops with genetic modified crops, and I kept eating.
    Now they are trying to replace my natural cow grown meat with vat grown meat? WTF?
    When will this stop? We are very close to losing bacon in the name of progress.

    Think of the bacon, this must be stopped.

  • ...a cup of Kopi Luwak with it.

  • Does eating synthetic human tissue make you a cannibal? (cue the creepy cannibalistic zombie apocalypse music in 3... 2.... 1...)

    • by jbeaupre (752124)

      There was a short story in Analog long ago that touched on that. A husband-wife team were famous for selling the best and most exotic cloned meat. He was the scientist, she was marketing. In a competitive industry, everyone was trying to out do each other.

      In the end, he confessed to his wife that their latest blockbuster was cloned from a sample taken from her ass.

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @06:22PM (#43704883) Homepage Journal

    How much worse can it be than what you get at McDonald's?

  • by hibji (966961) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @06:48PM (#43705035)

    If vat grown becomes a reality. Beef production produces huge amounts of methane which is a big contributor to climate change. You don't have to be animal welfare nut to advocate for this development.

  • Food manufactured in a lab for factory production. This is even further down the spectrum of the absurdity of processed foods and the exact opposite of what we need. This will be far more energy intensive and economically controlled.

    Stick with natural, pasture raised meat.

  • by ahem (174666) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @09:41PM (#43706071) Homepage Journal

    From the article: "starting with a particular type of cell removed from cow necks obtained at a slaughterhouse."

    There was also a mention that there's an ongoing need for animal products to produce the growth medium.

    There's work going on to be animal independent, but for now this meat is also slightly murderous.

  • by grumpyman (849537) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @10:56PM (#43706495)
    Anonymous McDonor?

God may be subtle, but he isn't plain mean. -- Albert Einstein

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