Lab-grown meat could be in shops this year
MEAT grown in a laboratory could be on restaurant menus by the end of the year, one manufacturer has claimed.
In vitro animal products, sometimes referred to as "clean meat", are made from stem cells harvested via biopsy from living livestock, which are then grown in a lab over a number of weeks.
Some environmentalists believe the process could be the key to reducing global warming, with one study predicting it could lower harmful greenhouse emissions by 96 per cent.
And the first products could be available for human consumption within months, according to Josh Tetrick, CEO of clean meat manufacturer JUST.
Chicken nuggets, sausage and foie gras created using the technique could be served in restaurants in the US and Asia "before the end of 2018", he told CNN.
But public perception and a reluctance to diverge from traditional farmed meat still represent considerable hurdles for the clean meat industry to overcome, he said.
"Gnarly problems, communication issues, regulatory issues," would have to be solved before products went to market, he said in a separate interview with The Guardian.
His stance is shared by Mosa Meat, whose lab based at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, was responsible for creating the world's first cultured hamburger.
The company's chief scientific officer Professor Mark Post said the regulatory approval process could delay samples being distributed to suppliers by years.
He gave a time frame of three years before the company could sell its first product to the mass market.
But one recent study revealed one third of Americans would be willing to eat clean meat regularly or as a replacement for farmed meat.
To reach that point, companies will have to bring down the cost of mass production.
Memphis Meats, a food technology company based in San Francisco, has to spend around $2,400 (£1,800) to make 450 grams of beef.
But as techniques become more streamlined, the price is falling, and the company believes it will be able to send the first products to market by 2021.
Animal rights charity Peta has been investing in in vitro meat research for the past six years.
In 2014, it offered a $1 million (£725,000) reward to the first scientist to produce and bring to market in vitro chicken meat.
"We believe it's the first important step toward realising the dream of one day putting environmentally sound, humanely produced real meat into the hands and mouths of the people who insist on eating animal flesh," the charity said in a statement.
An estimated 14.5 per cent of the planet's global warming emissions stem from from the keeping and eating of livestock - more than from the entire transport sector.
Livestock emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas, while land clearing and fertilisers release large quantities of carbon.