The study found that growing meat in the lab rather than slaughtering animals will generate only a tiny fraction of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with conventional livestock production.
The researchers believe that their work suggests artificial meat could help to feed the growing world population while reducing the impact on the environment.
According to the analysis by scientists from Oxford University and Amsterdam University, lab-grown tissue would produce greenhouse gases at up to 96 per cent lower levels than raising animals.
It would require between 7 per cent and 45 per cent less energy than the same volume of conventionally produced meat such as pork, beef and lamb or mutton. And what is more, it could be engineered to use only 1 per cent of the land and as little as 4 per cent of the water associated with conventional meat.
“The environmental impacts of cultured meat could be substantially lower than those of meat produced in the conventional way,” said Hanna Tuomisto, the researcher at Oxford University who led the study.
“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 that 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,” she added.
Aside for its predicted environmental benefits, lab cultured meat should also provide cheap nutrition, and would help to improve animal welfare as well as potentially taking huge pressure off farmland around the world.
Research into cultured meat is still in its infancy, according to Tuomisto. The study showed some of the complex implications of tissue engineering.
For instance, it would take more energy to produce lab—grown chicken than it does for poultry, but would only use a fraction of the land area and water needed to rear chickens.
But the research did not take into account other effects such as transport and refrigeration. — Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011
Keywords: artificial meat