MAASTRICHT, Netherlands, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Dutch scientists say they've used stem cells to create strips of muscle tissue, with a goal of producing the first synthetic hamburger this year.
Researchers at Maastricht University have grown small pieces of muscle about 3/4 inch long in a project to develop a more efficient way than rearing animals to produce meat.
Addressing a meeting of scientists in Canada, Maastricht researcher Mark Post said synthetic meat could reduce the environmental footprint of meat by as much as 60 percent.
"We would gain a tremendous amount in terms of resources," he said.
The strips of synthetic meat, off-white and looking like pieces of calamari, will be mixed with blood and artificially grown fat to produce a hamburger by the autumn, the researchers said.
"In the beginning it will taste bland. I think we will need to work on the flavor," Post told BBC News.
"The reason we are doing this is not to show a viable product but to show that in reality we can do this," he said.
Many food scientists say they believe current methods of food production are unsustainable, especially in Asia and Africa, where demand will shoot up as living standards rise.
Sean Smukler from the University of British Columbia said he thinks lab-grown meat could be a good solution.
"It will help reduce land pressures," he said. "Anything that stops more wild land being converted to agricultural land is a good thing. We're already reaching a critical point in availability of arable land."