The $475,000 hamburger

NYREE MCFARLANE
Last updated 16:00 29/07/2013
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THE ULTIMATE BURGER: We imagine that if the anonymous donor were Kiwi, he'd ask for some beetroot and an egg to top the half-a-mill dish.

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There's a new test-tube baby in town, and it's a burger. Yes, two pieces of bread and a slab of questionable meat.

This test-tube burger, that was grown in a laboratory in Holland rather than on a rolling pasture, will be served to one very rich anonymous foodie in London later this week.

The price tag for the concoction? Just over NZ$475,000. That puts some other fancy burger fine-dining rip-offs into perspective. 

Dutch scientist, Professor Mark Post, believes his development could help the environmental and economic issues surrounding rising demand for protein worldwide. 

"Right now, we are using 70 per cent of all our agricultural capacity to grow meat through livestock," he told The Independent. "You are going to need alternatives. If we don't do anything meat will become a luxury food and will become very expensive."

So, how is it done? 

The burger has been made from the stem cells from one single cow (and it could be replicated endlessly, in theory).

The stem cells were first stripped from the cow's muscle, and then incubated in a nutrient broth that turns it into the texture of an undercooked egg (mmm... appetising).

The "wasted muscle" is then bulked up in a process that is the laboratory equivalent of exercise before being strapped to Velcro and stretched. Then, 3,000 small strips of the lab-grown meat are minced and combined with 200 pieces of lab-grown animal fat to be formed into a burger.

Heston Blumenthal eat your heart out. 

The prototype was in part funded by the Dutch government, but an anonymous businessman - rumoured to be the first person to try this delicious-sounding concoction - also donated $475,000 to help the research happen. 

The move towards developing lab-grown meat has recieved a nod of approval from animal activists Peta. 

"We do support lab-grown meat if it means fewer animals are eaten. Anything that reduces the suffering of animals would be welcome," said spokesman Ben Williamson. 

Professor Post first experiemented with mouse burgers, and also tried to grow pork in a dish - but found that the latter resulted in rubbery squid-like meat. 

Some say it will be hard to convince people to eat "an artificial product" - but a look at the ingredients' list of most super-popular convenience foods debunk that theory: it seems that if it's cheap, delicious and sating, most people will eat it. 

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