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Is the World Ready for a Test Tube Burger?

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Yesterday, AdAge reported a shocking truth about McDonald’s (MCD): customers just don’t think it’s very good. Despite its best efforts, internal reports consistently find McDonald’s close to the bottom in quality perception measures.

The fast food chain saw same store sales rise 5.6% last year and, right now, it’s over 33,000 stores serve 68 million people a day. Yet, as successful as they are, the company still has to fight negative perceptions of its sustainability practices, treatment of animals, customer service and even the cleanliness of its stores.

Well, maybe this will help: the first test-tube burger should become a reality by October.

According to the LA Times, Mark Post, the head of the physiology department at Holland’s Maastricht University has been working on a $330,000 project, funded by an anonymous donor, to build a hamburger. He has already created several small strips of muscle tissue that, when mashed together with thousands of other strips, should form a meat patty.

While both Tyson Foods (TSN) and JBS (JBS) have expressed an interest in meat substitutes, work in the field has so far attracted very little attention from the beef-industry establishment. That being said, many consider the research necessary for creating an alternative to animal farming practices that cause a large number of environmental issues.

Add to that growing worldwide demand for meat and the possibility of food shortages and test tube meat starts to seem like a reasonable option. PETA has even jumped on board and is offering a $1 million prize to the first group to sell in vitro chicken meat in ten states.

However, many people still remain uncomfortable with the idea. Recently, the Daily Telegraph explained that people are bothered by test tube meat because it makes their stomachs churn. There are also safety fears.

In spite of PETA’s support, a brief, admittedly unscientific survey, I conducted among some vegetarian friends resulted in across the board no’s on the subject of eating test tube meat. One even said that it sounded “worse than eating a cow.”

Of course, cloning bothered a lot of people at the beginning and it’s turned out reasonably well. Still, at $330,000 for one hamburger, the average consumer may be better off with a trip to Mickey D’s.
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