Researchers presenting at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) 2012 Annual Meeting in Vancouver, B.C., have announced two new ways to produce synthetic meat, significantly upping the ante in what AAAS describes as a potentially lucrative industry.

The first approach pioneered by Stanford University biochemist Patrick Brown reportedly uses plant material to create meat substitutes and may also serve as dairy products. Noting that grazing requires extensive land and energy use, Brown explained to AAAS attendees that “yields from the world’s four major food plant crops—corn, wheat, rice, and soybeans—already provide more than enough protein and amino acids for the world population.”

Meanwhile, a Dutch team led by Maastricht University Professor Mark Post has taken a different tack, “gradually transforming” cow stem cells “into tissues that resemble the skeletal muscle that makes up steak or hamburger.” The scientists apparently aim to produce the first lab-grown hamburger by the end of 2012 and anticipate that future applications will use approximately 40 percent less energy “than traditional livestock production.”

“If we can raise the efficiency from 15 to 50 percent by growing meat in the lab, that would be a tremendous leap forward,” said Post. Although the current iteration will most likely taste “bland,” the team aims to refine its methods toward replicating the meat components that give beef its actual flavor. To this end, an unnamed financier who donated approximately $330,000 to the project has evidently pledged to contribute further funds once the proofof- concept burger is unveiled. See AAAS Press Release and Financial Times, February 19, 2012.