TIME Science

The Frankenburger Is Coming Sooner Than You Think Thanks to Google

Developer Of First Cultivated Beef Burger Mark Post
A beef burger created by stem cells harvested from a living cow is held for a photograph by Mark Post, a Dutch scientist, following a Bloomberg Television interview in London, U.K., on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

They may not taste great yet, but scientists, with the help of Sergey Brin, are ready to change that

It has been one year since I took part in one of the most surreal and expensive taste tests in human history. No, I didn’t eat a black Périgord truffle seasoned with gold or a bowl of beluga caviar. Last August in London, with 200 journalists and several hulking cameras staring at me, I was one of the two people to taste the so-called Frankenburger: the world’s first lab-grown beef burger, a five-ounce patty grown from cow stem cells that took a Dutch scientist four years of research and $332,000 to create.

Over the past 12 months, I’ve been asked The Question dozens of times, and each time I have given variations of the same underwhelming answer (it was ok; needs more fat). But I have also tried to make it clear that I hoped the burger I tried was just a first draft—the beginning of the meat-culturing age.

But as time has passed and I get fewer opportunities to say “it was one small bite for man, one giant bite for mankind,” I’ve started to wonder: Did that London event mean anything? Will it be just another weird moment in stunt-eating history? Or was it really The Beginning of the Cultured Meat Age?

The most exciting news I heard last summer was not that a cultured beef burger was actually, finally, being made—nor that I would be the guinea pig flown to London to try it. The news that got me most excited was that the mystery man bankrolling the burger was the co-founder of Google with an estimated net worth of $30.6 billion and a history of making sci-fi a reality. As soon as I heard the name Sergey Brin, I instantly thought: cultured beef could really happen.

But wait. Although Brin has nearly limitless resources, he also has limitless, omnivorous interests—everything from driverless cars to adventure space travel to asteroid mining projects. Brin didn’t attend last year’s burger tasting and hasn’t made any public comment on cultured meat for the past year. I wondered whether this was a one-burger-and-done project for him?

Not the case, said Dr. Mark Post, the Dutch scientist who created the cultured beef burger.

“He’s as determined as we are to make this happen,” Post told me, adding that he’ll be traveling to California later this month and firming up a commitment for additional funding with Brin’s foundation.

While Post declined to reveal the specific dollar amount, he said that Brin’s second round of support will increase the size of his team from five to 20. In addition to tissue engineers and food scientists, the larger team will have experts on consumer preferences and on how to get the burger approved by food regulators.

With Brin’s funding, Post said that the 2.0 version of the lab burger will have several major improvements:

More fat. My biggest complaint was that that even fried in oil and butter, by a Gordon Ramsay-trained chef, the cultured beef burger tasted about as dry as a turkey burger. The first cultured beef burger had 20,000 muscle fibers but zero fat cells. It’s fat that gives a burger its critical juiciness. And it’s fat, some believe, that drives our meat cravings. During the next year, Post’s team will focus on growing fat tissue, which is slower and more technically challenging than many assume.

More red meat. Most burger-eaters have never heard of myoglobin. But this protein, whose job is to store oxygen in muscle cells, is what makes red meat red. The first cultured beef burger lacked myoglobin, and if it wasn’t for some coloring additives—a mix of beet juice, saffron and caramel—the burger would have looked more like chicken: yellowish and white. By adding myoglobin, the next burger will not just look like red meat, it will also have a higher iron content.

No more serum derived from blood from unborn cows. By far the biggest issue Post will address in the next year is the growth factor problem, which is more or less a deal-maker or breaker for lab-grown meat. My burger was created from 20,000 strands of muscle tissue grown in fetal bovine serum. It’s not just that FBS, which is collected from unborn cows at slaughterhouses, is inconsistent with the whole animal welfare spirit of cultured meat. It’s that FBS is ridiculously expensive. Some critics, such as synthetic biologist Christina Agapakis, call the high cost of cell culture the fatal flaw of the idea. But Post believes otherwise. He said he’s experimenting with 30 vegetarian and yeast-based growth serums—broths of amino acids, salts and sugars that will mimic hormones and catalyze meat cell growth. He says two cultures are particularly promising.

It’s an ambitious agenda, but with Brin’s backing, the increased staff and growing signs of consumer interest in meat alternatives, Post has radically revised his timetable. When I first visited his lab in 2009, he scoffed at the idea that a cultured meat product would be available in 10 years. But now Post believes a commercially viable cultured meat product is achievable within seven years. He expects to finish his work in a year and a half—and then pass along his work to experts on “scaling up.”

This doesn’t mean we’ll have a cultured beef option at McDonald’s in seven years. Post warns that these first cultured beef patties (appearing in 2021, if his estimate is right) won’t be feed-the-world burgers, let alone cost-competitive with conventional meat. Post envisions cultured meat will begin as a high-end product for people who care deeply about the environment and how their meat is produced (think Prius drivers). If there’s consumer demand, production will increase and prices will fall quickly.

Another reason Post is increasingly optimistic about a commercial future for cultured meat is that his work is getting interest from a different audience. Whereas lab meat used to attract interest from science-minded journalists and connoisseurs of futuristic moonshot ideas, now Post is often giving talks to the food industry’s rank and file, from flavor companies to food additives suppliers. “They’re considering it as a business idea.”

Josh Schonwald is a Chicago-based journalist and author of The Taste of Tomorrow: Dispatches from the Future of Food.

TIME Fast Food

Burger King to Phase Out Its Lower-Calorie Fries

US-LIFESTYLE-BURGER KING-FRIES
Satisfries, a lower calorie and lower fat french fry from the fast food restaurant chain Burger King SAUL LOEB—AFP/Getty Images

Satisfries will remain in nearly one-third of its North American restaurants

Burger King has learned a valuable lesson: When it comes to french fries, customers might be more interested in ones made of breaded chicken than they are with a healthier option.

The fast food chain announced in a statement that most of its franchises in North America will phase out the lower-calorie “Satisfries” that was rolled out last September as a limited-time offering. About 2,500 of its 7,400 restaurants have opted to keep the item.

“At launch, Burger King Corporation (BKC) announced that guests would ultimately determine how long SATISFRIES would remain on the menu,” the statement said. “Earlier this week, franchisees in North America were given the option to continue offering SATISFRIES in markets where this game-changing product continues to perform well.”

A small order of Satisfries, which Burger King began automatically adding to kids meals in March, costs 30 cents more than normal fries but has 70 fewer calories. However, the small serving of Satisfries still has more calories—270—than McDonald’s small serving of fries, which has 230 calories and even weighs less.

News of the lower-cal fries’ rollback comes shortly after Burger King’s announcement that it would bring back the cult-favorite Chicken Fries for a limited time due to high customer demand.

TIME Food

This Is How the Potato-Salad Kickstarter Guy Plans to Spend the Money

Potato salad at a picnic
Lauri Patterson—Vetta/Getty Images

The guy who raised over $55,000 to make potato salad is throwing a festival and donating money to fight homelessness in Ohio

The guy who raised over $50,000 on Kickstarter to make potato salad has big (and charitable) plans for the funds 6,911 people helped him raise.

On Sept. 27, Zach Brown will host a free family-friendly festival called PotatoStock in a Columbus, Ohio, park. The festival is set to feature local artists and reportedly boasts relevant sponsors like Hellmann’s and Idaho Potatoes.

On Twitter, the account for Idaho Potatoes seemed excited about the event.

The festival, which Mashable reports will feature an estimated 200 lb. to 300 lb. of potato salad, also has a philanthropic ingredient. Proceeds from concessions sold at the festival will be donated to help end homelessness in Central Ohio.

“We are going to contribute a significant portion of the remaining money to the fund at the Columbus Foundation,” Brown wrote in July announcement. “This will create a permanent fund to help Central Ohio’s non-profits end hunger and homelessness. These types of funds gain interest every year and grow over time, so, while our little internet joke will one day be forgotten, the impact will be felt forever.”

In an interview with Mashable, Brown said he’s still working to secure a big name that will draw a significant crowd to his potato fest — but he’s sure his Kickstarter backers will show up.

“I keep hearing people saying that they plan to road trip to PotatoStock from [out] of town,” Brown told Mashable. “I’d love to see a huge pilgrimage to Columbus.”

TIME Food & Drink

World’s Most Expensive Hot Dog Topped With Foie Gras and Caviar Will Set You Back $169

The Juuni Ban contains smoked cheese bratwurst, butter Teriyaki grilled onions, Maitake mushrooms, Wagyu beef, foie gras, shaved black truffles, caviar and Japanese mayonnaise, all on a brioche bun. Guinness World Records

Quite possibly the world's classiest wiener

Forget mustard and relish: this hot dog — officially deemed the world’s most expensive by Guinness World Records — comes with toppings like caviar and shaved black truffles.

The Seattle-based Tokyo Dog food truck recently unveiled this beast, which, at a whopping $169, is the priciest hot dog commercially available anywhere on the planet. It’s called the “Juuni Ban,” and here are all the ingredients: smoked cheese bratwurst, butter Teriyaki grilled onions, Maitake mushrooms, Wagyu beef, foie gras, shaved black truffles, caviar and Japanese mayonnaise — all tucked in a Brioche bun.

In order to win the very esteemed World’s Most Expensive Hot Dog title, Tokyo Dog had to sell at least one of these bad boys in a “legitimate business transaction,” according to an article on the Guinness World Records website. The co-creators ended up selling six in one day — and then donated the profits ($1,014 in total) to the Red Cross.

If you want to get your hands on one of these, they’re on sale at Tokyo Dog for special events and require two weeks notice. Or, you could just keep your $169 and buy yourself one hot dog from a street cart every day for the next several months. Either way.

MONEY Shopping

OpenTable’s New Service Lets Diners Pay Without Having to Interact With Other Humans

The company's new mobile payments app means no more waiting for a server to give you a check.

Reservations app OpenTable already lets users book a table at 31,000 restaurants nationwide without having to go through the trouble of talking to another person. Now, the company is taking this service to its next logical level by letting diners pay for their food without any tedious human interaction.

As of Monday, the app will allow customers in New York City who made OpenTable reservations at one of 45 participating eateries to pay for the meal with their smartphone. The service will become available in 20 more cities by the end of the year. That means the age of waiting for a waiter to bring you a check may be coming to an end.

Sarcasm aside, this is a logical next step for OpenTable, and restaurants in general. The fact that we’re still stuck using pen and paper to pay for a meal in 2014 is a little strange considering that most people are carrying around internet-connected devices wherever they go.

There’s currently no fee for the service. According to Bloomberg, OpenTable hopes to make money by attracting more people to download its app. The company gets paid by participating restaurants for every reservation it schedules. But the Wall Street Journal ominously reports that while OpenTable CEO Matt Roberts isn’t currently making a profit from mobile payments, “he hopes to eventually.” So enjoy the free service while it lasts.

OpenTable isn’t exactly the first company to come up with the idea of dinner-centric mobile payments. In addition to Seamless and GrubHub, two companies that let users order take-out and delivery meals over the internet, there’s a whole industry emerging around letting diners pick up the tab on their phone. The Journal notes that startups like Cover, Dash, and TabbedOut, in addition to giants like PayPal, have all created similar apps.

That might make the market seem saturated, but in reality most restaurants don’t work with any of these products, meaning the market is wide open for anyone who gets it right. OpenTable probably has the best chance, given the size of its pre-existing network, although Paypal is aggressively growing its network internationally.

No matter who wins, the question remains: Which minor inconvenience will technology solve next? Maybe an app that lets you order pizza with a single button? Oh wait, that already exists

TIME Food & Drink

Burger King Is Officially Bringing Back Chicken Fries

Burger King

For a limited time only!

Burger King’s chicken fries are back. We repeat: chicken fries are back. This is not a drill.

Starting today, the fast food chain is again selling the thin, breaded chicken strips served in a French fry-style box. They were originally launched back in 2005, and though they built up quite a cult following, Burger King discontinued them in 2012. Since then, die-hard chicken fry fans have taken to social media to urge the chain to bring the product back. Somebody even created a petition urging President Barack Obama to make this issue a national priority.

And now, Burger King has taken action. (It’s unclear if Obama had anything to do with this, but we’re going to assume he did not.)

For now, though, chicken fries will only be available for a limited time — for just 12 weeks or while supplies last, Bloomberg reports. So if you want to get your hands on some, you should probably act fast.

MONEY

6 Surprising Reasons Eating Right Pays Off

French Fry Packaging with rolled up dollar bills
Saying no to the fries is a smart money choice. Mike Kemp—Getty Images

You know a better diet will make you fitter and healthier. What you may not realize is that replacing fries with a salad can help your finances too.

Eating healthy can make you look and feel better, but it can also be great for your wallet. Whether by reducing medical costs or helping you earn more, a healthy diet has benefits beyond a slimmer waistline. Consider these ways your diet can improve your finances:

1. You’ll Lower the Likelihood of Needing to Take a Sick Day

Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and minerals that help boost your immune system so it can better fight off viruses and bacterial infections. Staying healthy during flu season means you can go to work and get that paycheck (or promotion), and you won’t have to spend money on meds and extra doctor’s visits.

Not only does consuming a lot of produce increase your immunity in the short term, but it also helps prevent disease in the long run. Notably, eating more vegetables reduces the risk of heart disease, which afflicts about a third of all adults and costs about $444 billion a year to treat in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

2. You Can Stay More Productive

Not much is better for your finances than making more money, and one way to do that is to work harder. According to 2012 research conducted at Brigham Young University, eating healthy can help you do that. The researchers evaluated 19,800 employees at three large companies and found that eating well every day may lower your risk of productivity loss by 66%. They also found that exercise lowered the risk of lost productivity by 50%, and getting five fruit and vegetable servings lowered the risk by 39%. (Other research has found that frequent exercise is connected to higher pay.)

3. You Can Take Fewer Pills

Disease costs a lot of money in terms of doctor’s visits, procedures, surgeries, and medical devices, but a large chunk of medical spending goes toward prescriptions that could be discontinued. In fact, three of the top five most commonly prescribed medications in the U.S. are for preventable heart conditions, adding up to more than 160 million scripts per year. Keeping your heart healthy and your weight down through diet will help reduce the need for these medications and the monthly expense that goes along with them.

4. You’ll Steer Clear of Complications

When you’re unhealthy or obese, you’re more likely to have complications with an existing condition. For example, obesity decreases lung performance and is thought to exacerbate asthma symptoms. But foods rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids can increase lung performance. In addition, high blood pressure and diabetes can complicate your pregnancy, according to the CDC, and those costs can add up. Eating a healthy diet and keeping a normal body weight can help you avoid these problems.

5. You’ll Age Better

When most people think of retirement planning, they think of 401(k)s and IRAs. That’s a great start, but if there’s anything that can deplete your retirement funds, it’s unplanned medical costs. Studies conducted over the past 20 years show that plant-based and Mediterranean diets increase longevity and health, helping you work longer (if you want), save more toward retirement, and hopefully spend less on health care later.

More recently, researchers in Rome and the Washington University School of Medicine jointly published a paper that concluded that calorie restriction may be the best way to prevent disease and lengthen lifespan—even for people at a normal weight. The paper, published in 2011, took into account studies on rodents and humans. More human studies are needed, but the paper provided a basis for in-depth trials to come.

6. Your Insurer May Reward You

Employers and insurers are doing what they can to get you to eat right and work out (and need less high-cost medical care). That can mean discounts on the food you should be eating. The health-care network Harvard Pilgrim rewards workers for buying healthy food (up to $20 a month) and recently announced that it would roll out the program to other employers. Blue Cross Blue Shield offers Jenny Craig discounts, and Humana gives members a 10% discount on healthy groceries purchased at Wal-Mart.

Read more from NerdWallet Health, a website that empowers consumers to find high quality, affordable health care, and insurance.

 

TIME Food & Drink

Americans Eat More Than Half of Their Meals Alone

Party for one?

Here’s some good news for your self esteem: It turns out you aren’t really alone when you’re, well, eating alone.

A new report from the market research firm NPD Group finds that Americans are solo more than half of the time that they’re eating and drinking. People are the least lonely at dinner—eating with others some two-thirds of the time—but breakfast and lunch are their most solitary meals.

NPD Group

NPD Group tracks the daily eating habits of some 2,000 households a year and collects 5,000 individuals’ food diaries every two weeks, a spokeswoman told TIME. These findings are the result of two years of research, ending in late February.

This results shouldn’t really come as a surprise, since the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 27% of households are made up of just one person and the stigma of eating alone appears to be slowly lifting. There are even restaurants designed specifically for parties of one.

TIME Food & Drink

Best Kale Dishes in the U.S.

Kale pizza from Stella Barra Anjali M. PInto—Lettuce Entertain You Inc

In recent years, dark leafy kale has undergone a spectacular transformation from a humble, overlooked ingredient to the supergreen-of-the-moment whose popularity shows no signs of ebbing. Credit its unparalleled nutritional makeup—kale packs in plenty of vitamin A, folate and calcium—and its immense versatility. Crisp, pop-in-the-oven kale chips certainly smashed the green’s once-staid reputation—and that was only the beginning. Now enterprising chefs are using kale in any number of ways, from ingenious salads (the sturdy leaves hold their texture well under heavy dressing) to an untraditional topping for pizza.

Chicago; Los Angeles and Santa Monica: Stella Barra

Mathematician-turned-pizzaiolo Jeff Mahin is no traditionalist when it comes to pie toppings; one favorite combination calls for crispy purple kale, young pecorino, roasted garlic and cracked black peppercorns.

Miami: Michael’s Genuine

Menus change daily at this Miami favorite, but one recent fixture is its kale and farro salad, accompanied by always-varying shaved market vegetables that might include zucchini, radish and fennel, and dressed with a punchy buttermilk vinaigrette.

Fort Worth, Texas: Woodshed Smokehouse

Leave it to Texan chef Tim Love to give a meaty twist to kale salad. House-cured guanciale accompanies three varieties of kale, crisp celery greens, smokedpepitas and shavings of Manchego cheese. A lemony dressing made with rendered fat from the guancialeputs the salad over the top.

San Francisco: Bar Tartine

Chef Nicolaus Balla’s tahini—which he prepares with toasted sunflower seeds instead of the traditional sesame—packs an umami punch to kale that’s been quick-wilted in a sauté pan and tossed with torn pieces of the multi-seed-studded Rene’s rye bread from Tartine. Thick house-made yogurt, plus a sprinkling of yogurt powder, add a pleasing tartness.

New York City: Betony

Chef Bryce Shuman gives crisp–fried black kale a sumptuous accompaniment: seared foie gras with smoked pork hocks plugged into its center. A hock-flavored consommé is poured over the dish tableside.

READ THE FULL LIST HERE.

More from Food & Wine:

TIME Diet/Nutrition

5 Most Confusing Health Halo Food Terms

Local vegetables
David Malan—Getty Images

I frequently meet my clients at their local supermarkets so we can walk the aisles together. Most find it incredibly eye-opening: sometimes what they think they know about which products to select or how to read food labels turn out to be misconceptions. For example, one client recently told me she avoids oats because they contain gluten. In reality oats are gluten-free, unless they’ve been contaminated with gluten during growing or processing, but many companies make pure, uncontaminated oats, and label them as such. She was thrilled to be able to eat oats for breakfast again!

But gluten aside, there are a number of other issues and terms that can confuse even the most educated shoppers. Many of them sound healthy on their own—that is, they have a health halo effect. Here are five of the buzziest, what they really mean, and what they don’t.

Natural

The Food and Drug Administration has not developed a formal definition for the term natural. However, the government agency doesn’t object to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances. Natural does not mean organic though, and it doesn’t necessarily indicate that a food is healthy. For example, today I saw a cereal labeled natural, and it contained a whopping four different types of added sugar. Tip: when you see this term, read the ingredient list. It’s the only way to really know what’s in a food, and if it’s worthy of a spot in your cart.

Health.com: 12 Crazy Things That Happen to Your Food Before You Eat It

Organic

The USDA Organic Seal indicates that a food was produced without synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes (GMOs), or petroleum or sewage sludge-based fertilizers. The symbol also means that organic meat and dairy products are from animals fed organic, vegetarian feed and are provided access to the outdoors, and not treated with hormones or antibiotics. If the seal says ‘100% Organic’ the product was made with 100% organic ingredients. Just the word ‘Organic’ indicates that the food was made with at least 95% organic ingredients.

Health.com: 16 Most Misleading Food Labels

‘Made With Organic Ingredients’ means the product was made with a minimum of 70% organic ingredients, with restrictions on the remaining 30%, including no GMOs. I strongly support organics, but like natural, the term organic doesn’t necessarily mean healthy—in fact, there are all kinds of organic “junk foods” like candies and baked goods. Once again, when buying packaged food, the real litmus test is the ingredient list.

Local

This term generally indicates that a food was produced within a certain geographical region from where it’s purchased or consumed, such as within 400 miles or 100 miles or perhaps within the borders of a state. Like natural, there is no formal national definition for the term local. What local does not mean is organic, which is something 23% of shoppers falsely believe according to a recent U.S. and Canadian survey (17% also believe that a food labeled organic is also local, which isn’t accurate either).

Health.com: 14 Fast and Fresh Farmers Market Recipes

Nearly 30% also think that “local” products are more nutritious, and that’s not a given, since there are no specific standards pertaining to ingredients or processing. Also, it’s important to know that a locally produced food may not contain a Nutrition Facts label, because small companies with a low number of full-time employees or low gross annual sales are often exempt from the FDA’s food labeling laws. Hopefully a locally produced goody, like a pie from your farmer’s market, will include a voluntary ingredient list, but if not, be sure to ask what’s in it and how it was made.

Gluten-Free

According to the FDA, the term gluten-free means that a food must limit the unavoidable presence of gluten to less than 20 parts per million (ppm). The FDA also allows manufacturers to label a food as gluten-free if it does NOT contain any ingredient that is any type of wheat, rye, barley, or crossbreeds of these grains, or has been derived from these grains, or if it contains ingredients that have been derived from these grains, but have been processed to remove gluten to less than 20 ppm.

Health.com: 18 Health Benefits of Whole Grains

This means that foods that are inherently gluten-free like water, vegetables, and fruits, can also be labeled as gluten-free. The term gluten free-does not indicate that a food is whole grain, organic, low carb, or healthy. In fact, many gluten-free foods are highly processed and include ingredients like refined white rice, sugar, and salt.

Grass-Fed

Recently, I’ve had several clients who eat beef and dairy tell me that they only buy grass-fed, but most mistakenly believed that grass-fed also means organic. The actual parameters, as defined by the USDA, state that the cattle must be fed only mother’s milk and forage (grass and other greens) during their lifetime. The forage can be grazed during the growing season, or consumed as hay or other stored forage, and the animals must have access to pasture during the growing season.

Grass-fed does not mean that the cattle’s feed is organic, and it doesn’t mean they cannot be given hormones or antibiotics. Compared to products produced conventionally, grass-fed meat and dairy have been shown to contain more “good” fats, less “bad” fats, and higher levels of vitamins and antioxidants. But if you want to ensure that the product also meets the organic standards, look for that label term and the USDA organic seal as well.

Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics.

5 Most Confusing Health Halo Food Terms originally appeared on Health.com.

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