Beef, pork and lamb grown using tissue engineering techniques, often referred to as cultured or in vitro meat, need up to 45% less energy to produce according to scientists.

Work carried out by scientists from Oxford University and the University of Amsterdam, also estimates the artificial meat could lower greenhouse gas emissions by 96% compared to conventionally produced meat.

However, the meat is never actually part of a real animal and has been produced in laboratories on very small scale, but the high costs of the process mean it has not been taken up commercially, yet.

Report author, Hanna Tuomisto, said: “There are obviously many obstacles to overcome before we can say whether cultured meat will become part of our diet, not least of which is whether people would be prepared to eat it!

“But we hope our research will add to the debate about whether we could, or should, develop a less wasteful alternative to meat from animals.

“We are not saying that we could, or would necessarily want to, replace conventional meat with its cultured counterpart right now.

“However, our research shows cultured meat could be part of the solution to feeding the world’s growing population and at the same time cutting emissions and saving both energy and water.

“Simply put, cultured meat is, potentially, a much more efficient and environmentally-friendly way of putting meat on the table.”

Although the process would cut energy use for beef, pork and lamb meat it would need more power to produce poultry, but only a fraction of the land area and water needed to rear chickens.

The researchers based their calculations on a process, using cyanobacteria hydrolysate as a nutrient and energy source for growing muscle cells, that is being developed by co-author Dr Joost Teixeira de Mattos at the University of Amsterdam.

At the moment this sort of tissue engineering technology is confined to the laboratory, but the researchers estimated what the various costs would be for producing 1000kg of cultured meat using a scaled-up version of the technology compared to the costs associated with livestock reared conventionally.

The research was funded by New Harvest, a nonprofit research organisation working to develop new alternatives to conventionally-produced meat.

Luke Walsh

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