/ Food & Drink

Working up an appetite for a test-tube burger

rows of test tubes

A piece in The Independent this weekend got me thinking about whether I’d be happy to eat meat grown in-vitro. It’s a while off, but with the first ‘lab-grown burger’ being served up next week, would you take a bite?

If I’m honest I’m not keen on burgers at the best of times. This is largely for fear of knowing what’s in them. But given that I like Quorn burgers – which to me aren’t too psychologically dissimilar from in-vitro burgers given that they’re grown from fungi – I feel like it would be wrong for me to turn my nose up at the prospect.

According to the Independent’s article, each Briton eats about 85kg of meat a year, which roughly translates into 33 chickens, one pig, three-quarters of a sheep and a fifth of a cow. That’s a lot of meat.

Meat-fuelled diets

Last year you tucked into a guest Conversation from Dr Neil Stephens, Cardiff University Sociologist, about lab-grown burgers. Par ailleurs was worried how vegetarians would take to the meat-substitute:

‘It all sounds a bit iffy to me. It presumably has some ancient connection to animal cells so wouldn’t be acceptable to vegetarians. I disagree that “the rich” pay extra for premium meat products. I’m not rich but I still buy free range and organic. The easy way to do this is to eat a lot less of it and enjoy it more.’

And Malcolm said he’d cut back on his meat intake before taking to test-tube food:

‘As meat becomes more expensive I would eat less, but my gut reaction would be to stick to a real animal product, not manufactured. I do not even like the idea of reformed meat. I seem to remember that many of us (in the wealthier nations) eat substantially more food than we need so perhaps we should also consider trying harder to reduce consumption.’

Your gut reactions

Chris was concerned that producers would get carried away ‘perfecting’ their in-vitro recipes:

‘Once the idea of lab-grown meat is accepted and has found a consumer group, there will be attempts to tinker with the DNA of the source material to introduce different textures and flavours.’

The Food Standards Agency has said that artificial meat would need regulatory approval before going on sale. Manufacturers would have to prove that all the necessary safety tests had been carried out; otherwise we could open a can of worms reminiscent of the horse-meat scandal.

The last time we talked about in-vitro, most of our community said they’d prefer to cut back on meat before taking to the test-tube variety. What about you?


This is a publicity stunt for stem cell research. As the article in the Independent says, the burger will cost £250k to make. Producing affordable food is a long way off.

I saw an advert for Pringles on the page with the article. Read the ingredient list and you might think these things are made in a lab – but people eat them.

It’s the can of worms I’m waiting for.

Sounds disgusting. But then, have you been in a KFC lately?

Maybe not as disgusting as killing and butchering animals for food. I’m glad that I’ve never had I have never had to do that.

I well remember Patrick’s Conversation on eating insects. The only think more disgusting would be to eat live insects. 🙁

What disgusts us is very much down to the general view of the society we live in. If we eat food before we find out what it contains (e.g. cheeses contain moulds and bacteria), that remove most of the feeling of disgust.

It does not help to refer to refer to laboratories. There is actually considerable similarities between factories in which food is handled under hygienic conditions and modern science labs.

I agree about KFC. My only experience was in a foreign country where pointing at a KFC menu seemed a better option than attempting to communicate in an alien language.