Described as a “first-of-its-kind” study, the Livestock, Environment and People (LEAP) programme assessed the environmental differences of lab-grown and farm beef production methods.
The study found that replacing cattle with cultured meat would not be a “simple replacement”, as cultured meat production methods required large energy inputs, and it said that research on better ways of producing cultured meat with less impact was a “priority”.
The study added that although replacing conventional cattle farming with meat being produced in laboratories, the estimates were based on carbon dioxide-equivalent footprints, which were described as “misleading” as not all greenhouse gases generated the same amount of warming or had the same lifespan.
“There has been a great deal of public interest in cultured meat recently, and many articles highlight the potential for substituting cattle beef with cultured meat to provide an important climate benefit,” said lead author John Lynch.
“We show that it is not yet clear whether this is the case, partly because of uncertainties about how cultured meat would be produced at scale. An important issue in comparing farmed and cultured beef is that the different warming impacts of greenhouse gases are also not well accounted for in the standard measure used in carbon footprints.”
Cultured meat has begun to gather momentum across the international food industry, with predictions made by Mosa Meat co-founder Mark Post that cell-based meats could be stocked in retailers in the next decade.
Lynch concluded that the climate impacts of cultured meat production would depend on what level of sustainable energy generation could be achieved, as well as the efficiency of future culture processes.