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Is the schmeat patty the future?

It's hard to get excited about a culinary experiment involving hamburger and food scientists from the low-cuisine countries of England and Holland.

But a five-ounce hamburger patty the scientists plan to grill in London later this month is drawing international attention -- and not just because it took two years and more than $300,000 to produce.

The burger is the world's first to be made from laboratory-grown meat, known in the vernacular as "schmeat." It was produced in thousands of Petri dishes, using cells harvested from the necks of otherwise unharmed cattle. About 20,000 tiny strips of cultured muscle tissue make up the world's first schmeat burger.

The in vitro beef is being grilled to drum up interest in developing a commercially viable schmeat-making process.  One of schmeat's earliest and most enthusiastic boosters is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The animal rights group is offering a $1 million prize to the first person able to bring test-tube chicken meat to market, a move that PETA hopes would allow it to grab the nation's poultry processing business by its chicken nuggets and convince it to change its ways.

Scientists envision a day when in vitro meat-growing techniques are so advanced, schmeat can be grown in home- and restaurant-based bioreactors.

"Perhaps...it's something like a brew pub and they're brewing an in-house meat," said Isha Datar, a cell biologist and the director of New Harvest, a nonprofit research group advancing alternatives to conventionally produced meat, in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

I can only imagine the products such moo pubs would produce.

Someday, we may be able fill our home bioreactors with cell samples from our favorite farm animals, pump them full of genetically altered wheat germ nutrients, and sample the Bavarian accents of schliverwurst on rye, or the Mediterranean flair of a schmeatball hero.

And for the purists, nothing is likely to beat the simple goodness of a flame-broiled schirloin schteak.

It's not clear who will be given the honor of chomping down on the first lab-raised hamburger, which, based on its production costs, will be worth about $60,000 per one-ounce bite.

I'm curious about what the burger will taste like. But given the fact that the only free range this burger ever experienced was limited to the confines of a Petri dish, it's bound to be a little mushy and bland.

I predict that whoever is chosen to sample the first grilled schmeatburger will make a pronouncement similar to this:

"It tastes kind of like schlicken!"


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