Stem-Cell Burgers Only Taste ‘Close To Meat,’ Critics Say

Stem-cell burgers taste about as appetizing as they sound, it turns out.

On Monday the first test tube hamburger, created from 20,000 strands of meat grown from a cow’s muscle cell, was taste-tested in London. Two volunteers got to try five-ounce burgers with some salad and tomato slices, but the burgers didn’t earn very good reviews.

Hanni Rutzler, a food trends researcher from Austria, said the burger wasn’t juicy enough, saying it was only “close to meat.”

Josh Schonwald, a food writer from Chicago, said the stem-cell burgers had a familiar feel but were just lacking in something.

“It misses fat,” he said.

But Schonwald admitted it was hard to judge the stem-cell burgers based on the simple presentation. He said he rarely taste-tests burgers “without ketchup or onions or jalapenos or bacon.”

The stem-cell burgers were born from an idea hatched by Mark Post, who spent $350,000 over the last four years researching how to culture the burger from stem cells. He even taste-tested the meat during his research phase, and said he’d be comfortable serving it at his family’s dinner table.

On Monday, the first people to taste the stem-cell burgers got a little help from chef Richard McGeown. He added egg powder and breadcrumbs to the beef to make it taste more like a normal burger, then added some red beet juice to give the burgers a more natural color. He fried the burgers in sunflower oil and butter to make them look pretty close to a normal hamburger.

Post unveiled the burgers before a crowd of hundreds in London, admitting there is still a lot of work to do.

“Today’s presentation is only a proof of concept that it’s not science fiction,” he said. “However, there is still an efficiency issue and it remains expensive to develop.”

Though they still need more time in the lab, the stem-cell burgers will eventually be a staple on dinner tables, Post predicted. He noted that meat consumption is expected to rise 73 percent in the next 40 years, and laboratory-made food could be the solution to the problem of worldwide hunger.