London, Aug 6: Dutch scientists served a hamburger made from cow stem cells at a public tasting in London on Monday.
Volunteers who participated in the first public frying of a hamburger grown in a lab said that it had the texture of meat but was short of flavour because of the lack of fat.
"There's quite an intense taste, it's close to meat. It's not that juicy but the consistency is perfect," said Austrian nutritionist Hanni Ruetzler, one of the volunteer tasters.
US journalist Josh Schonwald said he felt the absence of fat.
"But the bite feels like a conventional hamburger," said Schonwald.
Both shunned the bun and sliced tomatoes to concentrate on the meat.
"Considering that we don't have any fat in there yet, so obviously that's a factor that affects taste, but other than that the consistency and the taste is, in my mind, pretty close," said Mark Post, whose team at Maastricht University in the Netherlands developed the burger.
Post hopes that making meat in labs could eventually help feed the world and fight climate change.
"I think that most people don't realise that the current meat production is at its maximum and is not going to supply sufficient meat for the growing demand in the coming 40 years. So we need to come up with an alternative, there's no question. And this can be an ethical and environmentally friendly way to produce meat."
Monday's taste test, coming after five years of research, is a key step toward making lab meat a culinary phenomenon.
That goal is many years distant, at best.
Despite the tasters concern about flavour, scientists say that can be tweaked.
The thought of eating meat developed in a lab predictably got mixed reactions from the public.
Many thought it was a good alternative and environmentally friendly, others felt it was "unnatural".
London butcher, Ricardo Ferreira, felt it would never take the place of meat.
"All of my steak is twenty eight days matured, it's been slaughtered in the correct methods. If it comes out of a lab and it's grown in a petri dish it's not going to be able to achieve that same sort of flavour."
Post and colleagues made the meat from the muscle cells of two organic cows.
The cells were put into a nutrient solution to help them develop into muscle tissue, growing into small strands of meat.
It took nearly 20,000 strands to make a single 140-gram (5-ounce) patty, which for Monday's taste test was seasoned with salt, egg powder, breadcrumbs, red beet juice and saffron.
Experts say new ways of producing meat are needed to satisfy growing carnivorous appetites without exhausting resources.
By 2050, the Food and Agriculture Organisation predicts global meat consumption will double as more people in developing countries can afford it.
Raising animals destined for the dinner table takes up about 70 percent of all agricultural land.
The animal rights group PETA has thrown its support behind the lab-meat initiative.
"Today's meat industry causes enormous animal suffering, and environmental damage," said spokesman, Ben Williamson.
"If in vitro technology can be kinder to animals, be kinder to the planet, help alleviate world hunger and make the food supply safer then surely that's something everyone would support."
Only one patty was used for the taste test, and the testers each ate less than half.
Post said he would take the leftovers home and let his kids have a taste.