Manufacturers should invest in the development of 'cultured meat' as traditional animal husbandry can't meet growing global demand, says Compassion in World Farming.
The animal welfare campaigner has called on a major manufacturer to "pioneer" the technique to ensure sustainable meat supply in future.
Scientists at Maastricht University in the Netherlands have been using stem cells to create strips of muscle tissue that are then mixed with blood to artificially grow fat. This could be used as a replacement for meat, according to the project's lead scientist Professor Mark Post.
Speaking to the BBC earlier this year, Post said cultured meat could be more efficient. At present, 100g of vegetable protein must be fed to pigs or cows to produce 15g of animal protein, an efficiency of 15%. But cultured meat could be produced with an efficiency of 50%.
Slaughter of animals
Microbiologist and meat industry expert, Dr Jo Head, said: "Cultured meat can stop a degree of problems the industry faces: it doesn't require the slaughter of animals, so it's good from a welfare and sustainability point of view. We cannot sustain the current supply. There needs to be another solution. Cultured meat is it."
But cost is likely to be a challenge. Post estimated that his first lab-grown burger would cost £200,000 to produce. However, once the method was scaled up to industrial levels, lab-grown meat should become as cheap, if not cheaper, than the real thing, he claimed.
Food security challenges
Traditional beef and lamb producers are less convinced. EBLEX, which represents English beef and lamb farming levy payers, said it would be too expensive and inevitably consume significant resources if it were to be adopted on a scale needed to have any impact on food security challenges.
Peter Hardwick, head of trade and development at EBLEX, said: "Eating it is an idea we find positively unappealing and likely to be rejected by consumers because of its artificial nature."
Others were equally dismissive. Clare Cheney, director general of the Provision Trade Federation, said: "Those who love real meat may not like the idea of it. It won't catch on as a suitable replacement."
The Food and Drink Federation, said: "Cultured meat is still at the experimental stage and so is a long way from being commercially available for use by manufacturers."