Poll

Would you eat a stem cell burger?

Would you eat a stem cell burger? Sacramento weighs in

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013 - 2:39 pm
Last Modified: Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013 - 4:26 pm

Mmmm, stem cell burgers ... just like Granddad used to grill.

That’s what we might be saying in a few decades if burgers crafted from cattle muscle cells become as common as the Big Mac.

A team of scientists from the Netherlands has spent the past five years developing the stem cells – or “blank” mutable cells that can divide and multiply – from the shoulder muscle of two cows into strands of meat. A fully formed burger patty made from this laboratory process was taste-tested in London on Monday by volunteers, including an Austrian nutritionist and food author Josh Schonwald.

These veritable guinea pigs gave this futuristic patty low marks in terms of flavor, even after it was fried in butter. The yellowish looking burger was formed with 20,000 strips of lab-generated muscle protein, and colored with beet juice and saffron to make the patty more red-meatlike. Schonwald described the burger as tasting “like an animal protein cake.”

Producing this single patty cost about $330,000, and mass production likely wouldn’t come to a drive-through near you for at least a decade. The potential upsides touted by researchers include producing meat with minimal environmental impact and saved costs from slaughtering animals. The flip side of these burgers: Their safety has yet to be tested over an extended period of time; plus, they just sound – and look – creepy.

For Robert Ramos, the co-owner of Coast to Coast Sandwiches and the upcoming Capitol Burger Kitchen, just thinking about a taste of petri dish burgers makes him shudder.

“It’s all too ‘Soylent Green’ for me,” said Ramos, referring to the science-fiction movie from the 1970s in which the population lives on processed plankton wafers. “I think there needs to be way more science before we start eating it. We’re now realizing that smaller farm operations feeding smaller locations is working better. We have more access to quality meat and that makes more sense to me.”

Jeremy Morioka, an organizer of the Sacramento Burger Battle on Sept. 18 at Raley Field, would give the stem cell burger a cautious chew. The idea of murder-less meat patties, which are produced in a laboratory instead of a slaughterhouse, has also appealed to some animal rights organizations. But for Morioka, it all comes down to taste.

“I’m not sure I would eat that burger, but from what I read, it tasted like actual meat,” he said. “I guess at some point I’ll have to give it a try, but it doesn’t sound appealing.”

As for Rodney Blackwell, who runs the popular Burger Junkies blog and is founder of the Sacramento Burger Battle, he’d rather eat a tofu dog than a stem cell burger.

“My motto is, ‘Keep it real,’” Blackwell said. “It probably tastes like a grass-fed burger without any fat added to it. Putting it on a brioche bun might get me there, but there’s something just weird about it.”


Call The Bee’s Chris Macias, (916) 321-1253. Follow him on Twitter @chris_macias

Read more articles by Chris Macias



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