The demand for meat alternatives continues to grow as millions switch to vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian diets for health, ethical and environmental reasons, and food companies around the world are starting to focus their efforts on plant-based and lab-grown products that can take the place of animal-sourced meats.

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Aleph Farms recently reached an important milestone in cellular meat production by serving up the first lab-grown steak, made from isolated cow cells and grown into a 3D structure. According to the company, the steak has the same texture as conventional meat, and it also has the same smell. But, they still need to refine the taste and thickness.

The current prototype is 5 mm thick, and a small strip costs $50, but Aleph Farms co-founder and CEO Didier Toubia says that is a huge step in the right direction because five years ago, the first lab-grown beef burger cost $283.500.

“The cost would come down as the production process was moved from the lab to a scalable commercial facility,” said Toubia.

The steak probably won’t be commercially available for another three or four years. But, when it does hit the market, Toubia believes that it will catch on like the Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger and help bridge the gap between people who do not want to completely give up meat and the need to reduce global meat consumption.

Related: 3D-printed vegan steak could aid world hunger relief efforts

The industry that is making alternatives to animal-sourced meats is booming, growing at a rate of 20 percent a year. The demand is so high that companies can’t keep up, and the gigantic U.S. meat industry is starting to take notice.

Meat companies learned a lesson from the plant-based milk revolution, and they are focusing their efforts on shaping the regulatory environment for their new competitors.

Joshua Tetrick, co-founder of the food company Just, says that cell-based meat will upend the market because the process will be able to feed people around the world.

“Probably the biggest obstacle outside of the scientific ones is getting folks used to the idea that we don’t need to slaughter animals en masse and deal with our waste to enjoy a nice Turkey dinner for Thanksgiving,” Tetrick says.

Via NPR, Treehugger

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