Cultured meat may be the future of animal agriculture—known by many names, from "clean meat" and "cell-based meat" to "lab-grown" and "slaughter-free." "Cultured meat" essentially meanas growing animal cells outside of an animal's body to produce real animal products. In nearly every way, cultured meat is the same as conventional meat. The biggest difference is that cultured meat does not require the raising or killing of animals. Ultimately, a cultured meat hamburger will look and taste identical to a conventional one, since they are both made of animal cells.

Many laboratory meat producers either use cells originating from animal biopsies or cells, which have, by natural mutations, spontaneously become immortal, allowing an infinite proliferation in the laboratory. Few businesses are considering genetic modification for optimum efficiency due to concern about customer reactions. Others are reconsidering whether species that are already widely eaten in Western cultures need to come from cells that go into cultivated-meat products.

One biology student has explored rising insect cell meat in order to produce products which can taste like crab, creeks and other meat products. Insect cells are simpler and cheaper to grow than cells from typical livestock species, using muscle cells from fruit flies or caterpillar from the moth Manduca sexta which also have nutritional benefits.

Then there is the zebrafish, which is an established model organism for studying the genetic, neuronal and behavioural basis of disease. As a lean fish with little fat content in the muscle, zebrafish fillets should be easier to produce than lab-grown cuts of fat-laced salmon, tuna, beef or pork. Companies have already devised ways to eliminate the nutrient-rich fetal bovine blood that is the cornerstone of most in vitro culture media. But this serum-free media is too expensive for cultivated meat to be affordable on the supermarket shelves, an industry official says.

Professor Mark Post showing the first "Mosa Meat" cultured meat burger

Improvements to cell source material and fuel cell growth nutrient media as well as 3D structures of the tissue supporting scaffolds are important. Bioreactor platforms of next generation which can grow large numbers of cells at high densities are also important. These are expensive businesses — many on the ground are unsure that private finance will fund them and yet deliver an affordable product.

In recent years, investors have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into cultured-meat science, bringing hype and countless news reports about an agricultural breakthrough that could circumvent traditional meat production's environmental and animal welfare problems. In 2013, Mark Post at Maastricht University in the Netherlands unveiled the world's first cultured burger. The Dutch government sponsored a €2-million ($2.3-million) project to cultivate pork meat from stem cells.

Mosa Meat cultured beef burger

One prediction by Chicago, Illinois, consulting firm Kearney indicates that 35% of all meat eaten globally by 2040 will be grown, a move that is expected to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and use of antibiotics. And thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, which exposed main vulnerabilities in global food supply chains, some people are now anticipating even quicker transitions to cell-based meat.

A US start-Up Eat Just announced earlier this month that it had received regulatory approvals for selling to consumers in Singapore, a worldwide leading food industry, in terms of chicken bites — which are 70 percent chicken cells and have vegetable protein added to the structure and flavor.

In 2013, Mark Post of Maastricht University unveiled the world's first slaughter-free hamburger to a packed press conference. The burger was harvested directly from cow cells, rather than raising and slaughtering a whole animal. It was the result of years of research and cost €250,000 to make, funded by Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google. This became UK-based Mosa Meat whose mission is environmental.

By 2050, the world's population will surpass 9 billion, and meat demand is expected to be 70% higher than today's level. It is projected that cultured meat production will use up to 99% less land, and 96% less water. This greater efficiency will make it possible to provide the world with real meat in a sustainable way.

Scientists worry that the commercial drive to sell palatable goods means that either simple research do not occur or remain shrouded in trade secrecy. Splashy presentations of their lab-grown chicken nuggets, pork sausages, steak strips and dumplings of seafood have been made by start-ups. Now the challenge is to make it work on a wide scale.