Monday, August 5, is a day that will live forever in culinary infamy. On that grim and foreboding day, the first-ever public tasting of a lab-grown faux burger took place in London, a town not known throughout the ages as a center of fine dining.
The burger was touted as "Cultured Beef," not to be mistaken for a fine, well aged patty made with premium cuts of real, grown-on-the-hoof bovine meat. The infamous little quarter pounder was the result of years of laboratory labor and it “represents a first step toward a sustainable, environmentally-friendly alternative to meat production,” according to Mark Post, a ‘mad scientist’ professor at the Netherlands’ Maastricht University.
Although the generally accepted way to cook a really great burger is on the grill, this chunk of artificial food – which could only make PETA happy – was tossed in a frying pan and offered to Josh Schonwald, an author who writes on the future of food, and Hanni Rutzler, an Austrian food researcher. No Dutch foodies were invited to step up to the table.
Michelle Kretzer, writing for the PETA Files, otherwise known as PETA’s official blog, went way overboard with her reporting. Her headline was ripped from the script of a Mel Brooks movie: “Success! Taste-Testers Love First Bite of Lab-Grown Meat!” Cue Peter Boyle’s entrance as Young Frankenstein; add some of Marty Feldman’s great lab rat role, too.
Editor’s note: One of the first rules of reporting is headlines that include an exclamation mark are never to be believed and should be limited to supermarket tabloids like the National Enquirer. Kretzer’s headline used two exclamation marks, making it twice as unbelievable.
"The surface of the meat was crunchy—surprisingly," said a cautious Rutzler. "The taste itself was as juicy as meat can be, but different. It tastes like meat, not a meat-substitute like soya or whatever."
Showing a little less enthusiasm than the “Love!” espoused by a gushing Kretzer who might write for Tiger Beat on the side, the culinarily brave or foolhardy Rutzler and Schonwald agreed that although they were pleasantly surprised at the texture, they were undecided about the taste.
"What we are trying today is important because I hope it will show Cultured Beef has the answers to major problems that the world faces," said Post. "Our burger is made from muscle cells taken from a cow. We haven't altered them in any way. For it to succeed it has to look, feel and hopefully taste like the real thing.”