Hold the Relish

A lab-grown burger excites hopes but not taste buds

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Photo-illustration by Marcus Gaab for TIME

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But if this really is the food of the future--and the most optimistic estimates suggest schmeat won't make it into supermarkets for 10 to 20 years--it will have to overcome what Kenneth A. Cook, president of the U.S. environmental-health research and advocacy organization Environmental Working Group, calls "the ick factor." In Post's earlier career as a physician specializing in pulmonary and vascular conditions, he learned to grow tissue to repair the damage that can be caused by fatty diets. Now he is trying to figure out how to put tasty fat into his burgers by culturing the right kinds of fat cells.

"If consumers don't accept it, it won't work. It will end up having been a science experiment," says Cook, who flew to London for the event and believes the technology is "worth a look."

And that is what cultured beef's theatrical debut was all about: drawing attention--and funding. With time and additional resources, Post is confident he can improve on the too solid flesh of the prototype patty. A little ketchup wouldn't go amiss either.

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