Growing meat in the lab using tissue engineering techniques could cut the associated greenhouse gas emissions by 96 percent, say University of Oxford and University of Amsterdam scientists.
They've calculated that cultured meat would require 7-45 percent less energy to produce than the same volume of pork, sheep or beef. Compared with rearing chickens, it would require more energy to produce, but only a fraction of the land area and water required.
"What our study found was that the environmental impacts of cultured meat could be substantially lower than those of meat produced in the conventional way," says Hanna Tuomisto of Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit.
"Cultured meat could potentially be produced with up to 96 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions, 45 percent less energy, 99 percent lower land use, and 96 percent lower water use than conventional meat."
The researchers based their calculations on a meat-growing process that's under development at the University of Amsterdam and scaled it up to produce their calculations. The math doesn't take into account additional savings from, for instance, the lower energy costs of transport and refrigeration of cultured meat compared to the conventional variety.
"We are not saying that we could, or would necessarily want to, replace conventional meat with its cultured counterpart right now," says Tuomisto.
"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."