Lab burger tasters are left asking: Where’s the beef?

A sizzling slice of edible history was served up in London yesterday – the world’s first lab-grown beef burger.

A lab-grown meat burger made from Cultured Beef, prepared by chef Richard McGeown.

The 5oz (142g) round, pink slab of meat, which cost £250,000 to create, was fried in a little sunflower oil and butter before a 200-strong audience by leading chef Richard McGeown from Couch’s Great House Restaurant in Polperro, Cornwall.

It was then dished up in bread buns with lettuce and tomato to be sampled by two VIP guests.

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Their verdict: It looks like beef, feels like beef but does not quite – yet – taste like beef.

A lab-grown meat burger made from Cultured Beef, prepared by chef Richard McGeown.

American food writer Josh Schonwald, author of the book The Taste of Tomorrow, said after chewing thoughtfully for some time: “The texture, the mouth feel, has a feel like meat.

“The absence is, I feel, the fat. There is a leanness to it. But the bite feels like a conventional hamburger. What is most conspicuous is the flavour.”

Fellow guest, Austrian food scientist and author Hanni Rutzler, who was the first to try the burger, said: “I was expecting the texture to be more soft.

“There is a bite to it. There is quite some intense taste. It’s close to meat – it’s not that juicy but the consistency is perfect.”

Next to take a bite was Dutch scientist Professor Mark Post, who produced the burger in his laboratory at the University of Maastricht, from stem cells taken from a dead cow.

“I think it’s a very good start,” he said. “This was mostly to prove that we could do it. I’m very happy.” Prof Post believes lab-grown “cultured meat” could by in supermarkets in 10 to 20 years.

It took 20,000 tiny strips of meat grown from stem cells to make the burger. Other ingredients included salt, egg powder, breadcrumbs, red beetroot juice and saffron.

Prof Prost admits more work has to be done before the artificial meat can compete with the real thing. “There is no fat in here yet. We’re working on that. We all know some of the flavour comes from the fat and the juices come from the fat, but I think this is a good start.

“We are basically catering towards letting beef eaters eat beef in an environmentally ethical way. Let the vegetarians stay vegetarian.”

He revealed the previously unnamed businessman who financed the project was Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

The tasting was at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith.