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Nuts & Bolts

September 3, 2013

Hamburger grown in a laboratory?

(Continued)

Hanni Rutzler and Josh Schonwald, both people with food credentials, were chosen to be the tasters at the public unveiling of the burger. Rutzler and Schonwald reportedly thought the patty had the basic texture of meat. It lacked fat because it was grown entirely from muscle cells. Fat lends flavor to beef so perhaps it's no surprise the tasters thought the flavor of the patty fell a bit short.

You and I won't get a chance to taste-test a lab-made burger anytime soon. Post needs to bring down the price, currently at about $31 per pound, and to decrease the time it takes to grow the meat.

"We need to show that we can make it more efficient," Post told NPR. "But we think we can have a more affordable price and have this in supermarkets in 10 to 20 years."

There are challenges. Adding fat to the muscle protein would improve texture and flavor. And the economics of the project may only move forward if major food companies start to invest in it. Finally, to be successful in the marketplace, the lab-grown burger would have to overcome the idea that manufactured meat is "icky."

But I'd be game to try the cultured beef. How about you?

Dr. E. Kirsten Peters was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard. This column is a service of the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University.

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