Dutch scientists have succeeded in growing meat in a laboratory, which they hope to turn into the world's first "test-tube hamburger" later this year.
A team from Maastricht University extracted stem cells from cows and grew them in containers to produce strips of muscle tissue, the Guardian reported.
Currently around 2 cm long, 1 cm wide and about 1 mm thick, the samples are "off-white and resemble strips of calamari in appearance," according to the BBC.
Ultimately they will be mixed with blood and artificially grown fat, minced together and turned into a burger that the scientists plan to ask a top chef to cook.
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Lab-grown meat could present major ecological advantages over "real" food, according to the professor of physiology leading the project, Dr Mark Post.
Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Post said rearing livestock to be eaten was a highly inefficient process that produced methane, a greenhouse gas, and required vast tracts of land. And yet, with the global population growing, the world is set to require more and more food.
"Meat demand is going to double in the next 40 years and right now we are using 70 percent of all our agricultural capacity to grow meat through livestock," Post said. "You can easily calculate that we need alternatives. If you don't do anything meat will become a luxury food and be very, very expensive."
According to him, growing meat would drastically reduce the quantity of animal feed, land and livestock needed – and even provide a healthier alternative to traditional meat, since it could be grown to contain more polyunsaturated fats, for example.
There are disadvantages, however – not least the taste, which researchers are unsure how to produce. Artificially-grown meat might also require chemicals and antibiotics to stop it rotting, environmental activist David Steele of Earthsave Canada told the BBC.
The project is expected to cost more than $317,000 in total and has been funded by a wealthy, anonymous individual, according to the Guardian. The process of growing meat is expected to get less expensive as scientists hone the technique.
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