Artificial meat may be future

Meat 'grown in vats' could be the future for answering an increase in demand worldwide, according to a leading researcher in livestock technology.

Dr Philip Thornton, writing in a paper published by the Royal Society, offered a number of possible modifiers of future livestock production and consumption trends including 'wild-card' drivers such as artificial meat, aka in vitro meat, and nanotechnology.

The expert from the International Livestock Research Institute in Kenya predicted that increases in the demand for livestock products, driven largely by human population growth, income growth and urbanisation, would continue for the next three decades at least.

"There are likely to be some issues associated with social acceptability, although presumably meat 'grown in vats' could be made healthier by changing its composition and made much more hygienic than traditional meat, as it would be cultured in sterile conditions. In vitro meat could potentially bypass many of the public health issues that are currently associated with livestock-based meat."

Thornton added, however, that the development and uptake of in vitro meat on a large scale would unquestionably be hugely disruptive to the traditional livestock sector and would raise critical issues regarding livestock keeping and the livelihoods of the resource-poor in many developing countries.

He also concluded that humankind's association with domesticated animals would still be critical to the well-being of millions and possibly billions of people in many developing countries, and said that, at this stage in history, it had no known viable substitute.

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