Whether or not we should continue to eat meat is an increasingly hot topic - its alleged impact on the climate and the ethical issues surrounding intensive farming have left many disillusioned with the carnivore’s diet.

But scientists believe that they have a viable alternative that doesn’t involve sacrificing your steak for Quorn or lentils. A Dutch team claim that their lab-grown burger made from bovine stem cells could be on sale within five years. They have even set up a company in a bid to make the burger taste better and cheaper to produce.

In 2013, the team cooked and ate a burger that cost £215,000 to produce. The 142g ‘cultured beef’ patty, developed at Maastricht University, was lightly fried in a little butter and sunflower oil and took three months to grow in a laboratory, using cells from a living cow.

The burgers are created in a four-step process. First, stem cells - which have the power to turn into any other cell - are stripped from cow muscle, which is taken during a harmless biopsy. Next, the cells are incubated in a nutrient ‘broth’ until they multiply many times over, creating a sticky tissue. 

This is then bulked up through the laboratory equivalent of exercise - it is anchored to Velcro and stretched. Finally, 20,000 strips of the meat are minced and mixed with salt, breadcrumbs, egg powder and natural red colourants to form an edible patty. The head of the new firm, Peter Verstrate, said in an interview with the BBC: ‘I feel extremely excited about the prospect of this product being on sale.  ‘I am confident that we will have it on the market in five years,’ he said.