Stem Cell Burger: What It Really Tastes Like

Five years and about $330,000 later, the first lab-grown burger to be cooked in public tasted like “an animal-protein cake,” according to one of two volunteer taste-testers in London on Monday. Sounds delightfully delicious, right?

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Two volunteers, Austrian nutritionist Hanni Rützler and Chicago-based author Josh Schonwald, participated in the first public taste-test. It was broadcast live on, the website for the Maastricht University study. Chef Richard McGeown cooked up the burger in a frying pan, using salt, egg powder, and breadcrumbs. For coloring, the cultured beef burger also included beet juice and saffron; otherwise, the meat would be unappealingly gray without blood cells in the test-tube meat.

Then it was time to start chewing, and chew they did. Rützler described the burger during the taste-testing event as “close to meat but not juicy enough,” according to the Associated Press. There is no fat in cultured beef, which, of course, is where the average hamburger gets its flavor. “I miss some salt and pepper,” Rützler added.

Both taste-testers agreed that the texture of the patty was very close, even if it lacked flavor. Without common hamburger condiments, like ketchup, onions, and bacon, Schonwald said, “The bite feels like a conventional hamburger.”

It’s the first hamburger cultivated in a lab from cow stem cells to be cooked and tasted in public. Professor Mark Post and his team of scientists at Maastricht University said it is just as safe as regular beef and involves no genetic modification. They created the hamburger by taking muscle cells from a living cow. Then, the cells were placed a small dish with a concoction of sugars, minerals, amino acids, and fats, and transformed into small strands of muscle tissue. According to Post, it's real, natural meat, even if it takes 20,000 meat strands to create just one 5-ounce beef patty.

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The laboratory meat is their answer to food insecurity and to fight against climate change. A University of Oxford study says cultured beef is a greener alternative to traditionally farming livestock, which adds 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Post admitted to the AP, his burger is “not perfect, but it's a good start.” But it’s just that, only a start; so don’t expect cultured beef to be hitting the meat counter at the grocery store any time soon. According to researchers, cultured meat of any kind sold commercially won’t be available for another 10-20 years.

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