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New horizons: Lab-grown burger

Updated August 12, 2013

FOR a scientific tour de force, it’s right up there with Dolly the sheep that created such a stir in the late ’90s. Recently, a lab-grown burger was presented before the world’s cameras in London. Fashioned from strands of meat grown from the muscle cells of a living cow, the artificially created burger understandably elicited a more visceral reaction than did the cuddly, albeit cloned, ruminant. The first question is, of course, would you eat it? The two volunteers at the unveiling, a nutritionist and a journalist who took the first bites, gave it good marks for texture, but not necessarily for taste. However, considering that it was served without any garnish — no bun, no lettuce or tomatoes — that is probably not surprising. A dash of ketchup may have added that little something that was missing, and future tastings are likely to pay more attention to that aspect.

Developed at a cost of $330,000, there’s no doubt of the invention’s potential value in terms of the environment, animal welfare and perhaps even dietary benefits. For one thing, lower demand for cattle reared for meat would lead to drastic reductions in methane gas emissions that contribute to global warming. But, although it’s early days yet, one can foresee some of the resistance lab-grown meat may encounter en route to the dining table — especially for certain sections of the population. For instance, would it be kosher for those who only consume meat from animals slaughtered the halal way? And in any case, would Pakistanis, carnivores extraordinaire, countenance eating meat ‘reared’ in a lab? Even though it’s likely far more hygienic than that which emerges from local abattoirs, in-vitro meat may just be a little too much for Pakistanis to chew on.