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i Editor's Letter: The future of protein



How are we going to sate the  global appetite for protein, as  populations in China and  Brazil eat more meat? The United Nations says that adding insects to our dinner plates could be the answer. More than 2 billion  people around the world already supplement their diet with bugs – the highlights of this particular tasting menu include wasps, beetles, caterpillars (a delicacy) and crickets. The UN concedes that “consumer disgust” remains a barrier in the West. I’d be  willing to try them, but probably wouldn’t want one with my coffee every morning.

Step forward Professor Mark Post of Maastricht University, who has a different solution. He has just created the most  remarkable burger we’ve ever seen, made from the first laboratory-grown meat (page 9).

Fat-free – because the burger consists of muscle tissue cultivated from cow stem cells – this dish received its first taste test in  London yesterday afternoon, eaten without cheese or condiments, its white flesh dyed with beetroot. It was judged to be a little – well, let’s not be rude – bland.

While this particular patty cost £250,000, the meat-growing technology will, the scientists claim, become cheap, quick and friendlier to the environment than livestock cultivation, and raise no animal welfare objections. They estimate that it will be 10 to 20 years before lab-grown burgers could become available in shops, by which time they hope to be ready to start making steak.

So far, so repulsive? I wouldn’t dare to guess the contents of the burgers I’ve eaten.


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