What if … we can produce sustainable meat that doesn’t demand intensive farming or the slaughter of cattle? Reduce water spill, greenhouse gas emissions and other energy spill drastically? Bring livestock farming space down with 99% to protect our natural environment? Can the in-vitro burger make our world better? And what about the mc²Burger?
Let the battle of the burgers begin …
Yesterday, during a press conference professor Mark Post (University of Maastricht) presented a hamburger is likely to indeed make our world a lot better when it comes to environmental and animal friendliness: the worlds first cultured beef a.k.a in-vitro meat a.k.a. Frankenburger ak.a. test tube meat. Right after his presentation, Vegetarian Butcher’s (Vegetarische Slager) Jaap Korteweg presented its meat free mc²Burger. Both burger boys claim their burger is revolutionairy: both burgers are processed without slaughtering an animal, while both ‘beef’ burgers are not to distinguish from the classic burger we know.
In this article, I will first discuss Professor Post’s in-vitro burger. I will discuss how it’s processed and what my pro’s and what the con’s are. Next, I will discuss my mc²Burger’s pro’s and con’s. It’s up to you if you agree with this, this is just my vision and opinion on this topic. I am sure there are things other people see differently and I am sure I forgot to include things. Therefore, please don’t hesitate to share your opinion or addition to this article in the comments below!
1st contestant: the In-Vitro Burger
First, take a look at Professor Post’s TedX talk about the in-vitro burger to have a clear vision on what an in-vitro burger is and with which benefits it comes:
Interesting? Read on …
The process of creating an in-vitro burger
The in-vitro burger is created in a bioreactor culture. The process is as follows:
- stem cells found in muscle tissue are painlessly harvested from a living cow by means of a biopsy.
- The cells are nurtured, making them multiply and form strips of muscle tissue.
- A protein is then added to stimulate muscle growth.
- The strips are exposed to little electrical impulses, making the strips of muscle grow, ending into a hamburger after (at this moment of writing) three months.
Sounds like abracadabra? Whatch the video below in which Professor Post explains how in-vitro meat is made:
Pro’s of the in-vitro burger
According to Professor Post, just a tiny little piece of in-vitro meat can produce about 100.000 kilo of sustainable, environmental and animal friendly meat. This is a positive view on the future for our livestock, that currently causes a huge carbon foot print, water pollution and is dripping with animal unfriendly circumstances.
According to those who tasted the burger, the taste is okay, but not special. The woman that tasted the burger during the press conference in London (see video below) says the burger is perfect, but less soft than a regular burger.
Play the video to hear the comments on the taste of the in-vitro burger.
Just like any other meat, it needs flavoring, I guess. I must say, looking at the pictures below, the burger looks very good: juicy and similar to a good quality ‘classic’ beef burger. As far as I know, at his point, no synthetics or chemicals are added to the meat.
Professor Post sure knows how to model hamburgers 😉 I suggest adding some leafy greens and bright colored veggies though.
Con’s of the in-vitro burger
The media regularly talks about meat causing cancer. There is scientific evidence that welldone meat and substantial consumption of red and preserved meat may cause different types of cancer. This effect is caused by underlying factors such as thermal processing of meat (baking on high temperatures) and specific contents of meat though (fat, protein and iron) and not by the meat itself.
It’s not meat free
Furthermore, the in-vitro burger still contains meat. On the other hand, no animals are slaugthered, but what about the conditions they live in? Would a huge decrease of our cattle mean better life circomstances for cows?
Another thing that made me think about is that the stem cells are nurtured with blood serum from calves and cows. Calves … hmm … do you understand what I mean? Or am I being too empathic towards baby cows? At the moment, professor Post and his team are doing tests to substitute the blood serum with synthetic material. This could be a good thing, but am I the only one getting goose bumps when I hear the word ‘synthetic’?
We don’t need meat*
The opinions about this are widely spread. My opinion: no. As a vegetarian, there are multiple sources to make sure you don’t lack any of the nutrients that are beneficial in meat. These are mostly vitamins B1, B12, protein and iron. B12 for instance can be supplemented by vegetarians by incorporating spirulina into their diet. Another option to make sure you don’t lack any nutrients is to take a high quality complete supplement especially for vegetarians.
Producing the in-vitro beef is still very expensive. The cost for 1 cultured beef burger: € 250.000,-. Total costs for developing the in-vitro burger up till now: a whopping € 800.000,- (sponsored by the co-founder of Google and an anonymous philanthropist). There are some technical problems to solve and be able to produce in-vitro meat in a more cost effective way.
Not available yet
Professor Post thinks it will take another 10 years before the commercial in-vitro burger is a fact.
PETA! Help! What do you think?
What does PETA say about in-vitro meat? According to PETA, to overcome health problems, it is best to stop eating meat at all. Even Professor Post agrees that “being vegetarian is still better for the environment than eating meat, but cultured beef is a good alternative for the environment”. Both PETA and Post realise that it is not realistic to expect all earthlings to give up eating meat though. PETA therefore supports the idea of producing meat without having to kill animals. I wonder if Professor Post knows PETA has a contest that rewards the one that produces the first in-vitro commercially viable chicken with $ 1 million??
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“Being vegetarian is still better for the environment than eating meat, but cultured beef is a good alternative for the environment”
Professor Mark Post – Creator and initiator of the in-vitro burger[/tab] [/tabs]
The in-vitro burger is still in development. It can take up to 10 years before buying an in-vitro burger – which tastes ‘perfect’, is made of real meat and looks the same as a classic burger – in your supermarket is a fact. When that time comes, this means a lot to our environment, reducing carbon emission, water pollution and animal harm tremendously. Consuming meat is not essential to our health when supplemented the right way* though.
2nd contestant: mc²Burger
Right after the London presentation of the in-vitro burger, the Vegetarian Butcher presented its own animal and environmental friendly mc²Burger.
Pro’s of the mc²Burger
Meat is not obligatory to our health*
Since meat is not abligatory to our health, this meat free burger seems like a great substitute for th in-vitro burger.
Available and inexpesive
The mc²Burger is commercially available right now for less than € 1,- per burger.
Tasty ‘real meat’
According to the Vegetarian Butcher, their mc²Burger has all the qualities of a first class beef burger. Reasons for this that I could think of are that it looks really yummy (see picture below), it doesn’t tell it’s not real meat and it has vitamin B12 (which vegetarians tend to lack when not supplemented well enough) added. Furthermore, according to the Vegetarian Butcher, the taste of the mc²Burger is not to distinguish from real meat.
The mc²Burger ‘food print’ is 7 times smaller than that of a regular beef burger.
Care for ingredients
I’m happy to read that the Vegetarian Butcher only uses non-GMO (non genetically modified) soy beans from a South American area that doesn’t require deforestation. Furthermore, their plant based palm fat powder is RSPO certified, which ensures better environmental and social circomstances (for the cultivation of non-RSPO certified oil palm plantations rainforest is distroyed, as such the habitat of oeran utans, tigers and elephants disappears).
Con’s of the MC2 burger
I was a little bit surprised by the ingredients of the MC2Burger. Their website lists a few ingredients that I would not choose to use in my meals myself. Here are my remarks:
- yeast extract
Those suffering from intestinal fungal overgrowth of candida, are recommended a candida cleanse diet by alternative medicine practitioners to treat the overgrowth. Although there are many positive experience with the candida cleanse diet and leaving out yeasts, there is no scientific evidenve for the efficacy of the treatment. From my own experience only,I can say it worked for me and I still try to eliminate yeasts as much as possible. Therefore, I would discourage eating the MC2burger to others sensitive to fungal growth (a.k.a. candida) as well.
- wheat protein
Wheat protein is another word for gluten. Gluten works as glue in recipes. Gluten are very harmful for celeacs, but can also be harmful for non-celeacs, causing inflammtion in the intestines (I would not suggest skipping gluten for weight loss, as the author of Wheat Belly suggests, but many people, also non-celeacs, benefit from going gluten free).
Further info on some of the ingredients
A polysaccharide (E407) extracted from fiber rich seaweed, which is beneficial to our intestinal health. Has thickening properties in recipes (I used a seaweed extract in my vegan jiggly chia pudding, for instance) and contains iodine, which is neccecary for healthy thyroid function (careful not to overdose though!).
- soy protein & soy concentrate
- wheat starch
Don’t be scared to eat a little bit of starch, but don’t overdo the amounts you consume, since they affect your blood sugar level (no, that’s not what you want!).
- sunflower oil
Sunflower oil mainly consists of omega 6 fatty acids. In most diets too much omega 6 is consumed and too little omega 3, while a decent n3:6 ratio (4:1) is important for our health. Try to keep track of your omega 3:6 ratio intake and add more omega 3 (like flaxseed oil or canola oil) to your diet if neccecary.
Burned sugar. I can imagine this is complementary to the taste of the burger (which the Vegetarian Butcher confirmed, with the addition that it is also added for color), but due to thermal processing of sugar, caramel doesn’t leave you with much nutritional value. I wouldn’t recommend adding caramel to a healthy diet because these are just ’empty’ calories and imbalance your blood sugar level, but hey, according to the Vegetarian Butcher there’s only a tiny bit of caramel in their burger, so I don’t think this is going to make you sick or fat.
The mc²Burger is completely meat free and for as far as known, completely environmental and animal friendly.
Another positive thing about the mc²Burger is that it contains vitamin B12, which could be lacked by vegetarians if not supplemented well enough.
I haven’t tasted the burger, but I did try their fish free tuna, which tasted great and exactly like tuna. I expect their mc²Burger to be tasty and burger-ish as well.
I think the mc²Burger a great second candidate for the award for the world problems solving burger!
But which of these burgers wins the price for the most environmental and animal friendly burger that satisfies both meat lovers as well as animal friends?
In my perspective, the mc²Burger is a winner because it is readily available, has the looks and taste and is environmental and animal friendly.
The in-vitro burger is a winner because it’s a clean, high quality, environmental and animal friendly protein source (for as far as I know, I haven’t discovered differently).
Both burgers have their pro’s and con’s and it kind of depends on what you think is the most important characteristic that makes a burger a winner. Any way, both burgers seem to be able to produce sustainable ‘meat’ that doesn’t demand intensive farming or the slaughter of cattle, reduce water spill, greenhouse gas emissions and other energy spill drastically and bring livestock farming space down to protect our natural environment. Doesn’t this make them both winners?
Decide for yourself, this is just my opinion. How about yours?
Since the in-vitro burger is not available yet, there is only one option at this moment though: eat mc²Burgers and meanwhile, wait for the in-vitro burger.
Order Orthica Vegetarian Multi (the best supplements brand there is!) online at Vitaminstore
* I am not a doctor. Before you cut out all meats from your diet, please consult a doctor.