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No cows were injured when Sergey Brin funded the first lab-grown hamburger

sergey-brinYesterday saw a remarkable first.  The world’s first cowless hamburger was cooked and eaten before an invited audience and the event was live-streamed for millions of others.  Google co-founder, Sergey Brin, backed the project to produce it with $250,000 of his own money, about the amount he probably keeps in the change jar on his hall table.  A team led by Dr Mark Post of Maastricht University grew 20,000 muscle fibres from cow stem cells and pressed them together to form a hamburger made from meat biologically identical to that produced by a cow, but grown in a laboratory instead.

The estimates are that synthetic burgers produced in this way might use 90% less land and water and save 70% of the energy.  Since cows need not be raised and killed, they do not have to be fed and do not emit the greenhouse gas methane.  It could mark yet another stride in the drive to feed the world without making an unacceptably large footprint on the planet.  Tasters reported that the burger “tasted like meat.”

I once met Sergey Brin at a rocket launch from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and was impressed by his boyish enthusiasm.  He has used the wealth from Google to back many schemes including private spaceflight and asteroid mining, while Google itself has invested heavily in the driverless cars that may feature big in the future of transport. Of course many NGOs will not be pleased at the new development.  They rail against meat because vegetables can feed more people than it can, but if this takes off their principal argument will be gone.  Maybe they’ll rage against it anyway because it’s another case of modern science “interfering with nature.”

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One Response

  1. If we ever start producing meatless meat commercially, I hope we will not be stuck with leatherless leather because the phasing out of the bovine stock will play hell with my poor feet stuck in leatherless shoes. This would also leave the question of milk but I can remember a project which was televised many years ago when ‘ equipment ‘ was constructed to copy the process of a cow eating grass and producing milk. The machine was fed with grass and out came milk. It worked……but the milk tasted terrible and the cows won hoofs down.

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