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Back from London – the #culturedbeef burger tasting and what followed

Published August 10, 2013 | Updated June 16, 2021 | Isha Datar

Picture of panel

What a trip! What an experience! What a milestone!

On August 5th was the cultured beef burger tasting, where Mark Post from Maastricht University announced that his cultured hamburger project was funded by Google’s Sergey Brin.

The audience at the event was primarily journalists – invited from around the world – and a few researchers from the cultured meat community. It took place at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith in West London.

The presentation was set up to look something like a cooking show with chef Richard McGeown preparing the hamburger while videos were shown about how Mark and his team created the hamburger and the reasoning behind cultured meat.

Everyone was dying for a taste, but the only folks who had a chance to taste it were Josh Schonwald, author of Taste of Tomorrow: Dispatches from the Future of Food ; food scientist Hanni Rutzler and Mark Post.

I felt the comments from the tasters were quite reasonable. It definitely did not taste like a soy-based meat replacement, but lacked the flavour of carcass-based meat. That made sense, as there was no fat in this hamburger.

Question and answer period was pretty robust – a lot of people asked exactly what we wanted to know about.

I had a chance to ask a question to Mark about why industry had not yet gotten involved in the development of cultured meat.

Check out the videos from the event, with photos and more at http://culturedbeef.net

After the event, there was a frenzy of media interviews. I had a chance to speak with the Verge, BBC, and journalists from Japan, Italy, France and more.

I was also reached by CNN to write an Op-Ed about cultured meat, which was no doubt a challenge to do while staying in an 18-bed room at a London hostel. But I think it turned out OK! Check out the op-ed here.

Following the event, I had a chance to speak with a handful of folks from the World Society for the Protection of Animals. They wanted to know more about cultured meat to see if the organization could form a formal policy opinion on it.

I also had a chance to meet with David Benque of the Design Interactions Program at the Royal College of Art in London. His program looks at emerging technologies and applies speculative design principles to see how these technologies could exist in society in the future. He did this great cultured meat short story in 2011 which should give you an idea of the kind of stuff he works on. It was a great connection to make and I hope we can find a way to work together in the future.

I also held a New Harvest lunch for the cultured meat community members in London for the big event. For myself, it was the first time I had met many of the researchers and it was absolutely wonderful. It was also great to discuss the tasting and check out the response in the local media.

I also met up with a few folks from the Effective Altruism community who are interested in the effectiveness of cultured meat in reducing suffering.

And I spent some time with folks from Lifestock, a team from Singularity University hoping to take an entrepreneurial role in the development of cultured meat.

It was an event-filled few days, for sure. I can’t wait to see how the world changes from this point onward, and what Mark Post’s next steps are. No doubt, the world was expose to cultured meat this past week – let’s see what happens next.


About the Authors
Isha Datar is Executive Director at New Harvest