Lab-grown meat could reach supermarket shelves in five years
Meat grown from cells in a laboratory could be on supermarket shelves within five years, scientists say.
The product, known as cultured meat or clean meat, involves a biopsy being taken from an animal such as a pig or cow.
Stem cells from that sample are then placed in a reactor in a laboratory, where they are fed a solution of glucose, amino acids, vitamins and minerals.
Researchers at the University of Bath are growing cells on blades of grass, allowing them to multiply and become the mature muscle cells that form cultured meat.
Dr Marianne Ellis, senior lecturer in biochemical engineering, said the current texture of cultured meat makes it best suited to sausages and burgers.
However, it is hoped that products such as steak and bacon rashers will be developed in the future.
She described the process of creating cultured meat as currently “very expensive” but said work was being undertaken to reduce those costs.
“The UK really is one of the key essential players globally on the scale-up so that is what we’re working on as engineers, developing systems to grow the cells on a large scale,” Dr Ellis said.
“In terms of when we’re likely to see it in the supermarkets, probably the most advanced company at the moment is Mosa Meat and they are predicting four to five years.”
Dr Ellis said the aim was for cultured meat to be the same price as traditional meats in supermarkets.
The amount of energy required to produce lab-grown meats could be reduced with “nifty engineering”, she insisted.
It requires only a small amount of a cow to be grown, she said.
Researchers predict that “much less” energy would be needed to create the product in hot countries.
“The huge advantage of eating something like cultured meat is that it addresses our global needs and our global challenges of both food security and addressing climate change,” Dr Ellis said.
“Our global population is growing and our current food production methods will not scale to produce what we need to feed everybody.
“We need something like an additional 60 million tonnes of protein to feed the population by 2050 and we can’t do that like we currently do.
“This cultured meat is a way to do that. It can be done anywhere in the world – it can be done where it is really hot and where it is really cold.
“We have the opportunity also to address our climate issues because this method compared to traditional beef production has much less greenhouse gas emissions, has much less water use, has much less land use and reduced energy use so it really addresses those two key global challenges.”