If living, sentient animals were no longer involved in the human consumption of meat, would all of the ethical dietary issues about it end? It's a strange hypothetical, but one that could actually become relevant in the coming years. Scientists from the Netherlands have created meat grown entirely in a laboratory, and say that it will be ready for taste-testing by this fall!

This potentially revolutionary burger was created using the adult stem cells of cows; the cells were then grown into very small strips of cow muscle, approximately an inch long and half an inch wide. (See the info-graphic on the right from the Guardian UK).  By autumn, the scientists in charge will have created 3,000 of these strips, at which point they will be combined with fatty tissues, minced up together, and turned into the world's first fully lab-grown burger.

Research like this could go a long way in changing the way people interact with the environment. For example, the global livestock industry generates about 16% of the world's total greenhouse gas emissions, and cattle consume 80% of the world's farmland and 10% of fresh water, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It doesn't take much to imagine the possibilities that lab-grown meat could have there.

It's also important to recognize the rising demand for meat around the world. As the population grows, traditional methods of satisfying the public's desire for meat will eventually reach a point of instability. Dr. Mark Post, the lead researcher at University Maastricht, said, “You can easily calculate that we need alternatives. If you don’t do anything, meat will become a luxury food and be very, very expensive."

Of course, there's no guarantee that this research will be a success, or that the taste or texture of the burger will adequately substitute for real, grass-fed cow. It's just one fascinating step in the quest to create a more sustainable lifestyle for the world's growing population.

Photo Credits: She Knows, The Guardian UK