Craving your next serving of steak? These sumptuous 3D printed pieces of beef may surprise you.
This cutting-edge company is on a mission to mass-produce cultured beef, real beef from cows without any slaughter, which then undergoes 3D printing.
The researchers suggest that lab-made beef is bound to reduce the environmental toll of conventional meat production methods. But does the public feel ready to embrace these rising cuisines?
Rare or well made?
Israeli company Steakholder Foods, formerly known as MeaTech 3D, has unveiled what it calls Pieces of Omakase beef.
As the name suggests, these are bite-sized pieces of meat developed using a 3D printing process that works on lab-grown beef.
Instead of coming from the slaughter of cattle, the beef in these cuts is derived from “starter cells” or Stem cells of the animal that are left to grow in a Petri dish or flash under artificial conditions.
“Omakase Beef Morsels is an innovative culinary and technological achievement inspired by the marbling standard of Wagyu beef and designed as a meat-lover’s delight for upscale dining experiences.” Explain Steakholder Foods.
“The product is made up of multiple layers of muscle and fat tissue that have been differentiated from bovine stem cells. It can be printed in a variety of muscle and fat layer sequences and with any desired ratio, shape or marbling width. .”
As innovative as the new “patent pending breakthrough“may seem, 3D-printed meat is actually nothing new, at least as far as vegan versions go.
In 2020, another Israeli company, Redefine Meat announcement the launch of its apparently also “patent pending” plant-based 3D-printed meat product, with its main sources of protein being soy and peas.
Redefine Vegan Meat Imitation Dubbed “change the game“, with its “amazing” taste and texture, was declared “certainly the closest synthetic approximation yet”.
Steakholder’s 3D-printed beef, meanwhile, uses lab-grown steak that the company unveiled in December 2021 as the “largest” piece of cultured steak in the world weighing nearly 4 oz (110 grams) – making it the closest with real steak from the slaughter of cows.
The following explanatory video dives deeper into the production process and how scientists had to “grow” both fat and muscle tissue from the meat in the lab:
Prior to Steakholder’s innovation, Aleph Farms, again based in Israel, is credited with the production of the world’s first lab-grown beef steak in 2018.
From environment to ethics: public adoption
As to whether lab-grown meat is better for the environment, as industry game-changers claim, researchers widely claim, but there’s still a lot to learn.
A 2019 report from the University of Oxford suggests that ‘cultured meat’ grown using tissue engineering techniques produces up to 96% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than the conventional process. .
“What our study found was that the environmental impacts of cultured meat could be significantly lower than conventionally produced meat,” said Dr Hanna Tuomisto of the Conservation Research Unit of Wildlife from the University of Oxford, who led the research. previously said.
“Cultivated meat could potentially be produced with up to 96% less greenhouse gas emissions, 45% less energy, 99% less land use and 96% less water use. less water than conventional meat.”
Additionally, producing meat without having to raise and slaughter livestock can be more efficient in ensuring overall animal welfare and health.
However, a precedent publication on the European Union (EU) website suggested that not all artificial meat production methods may be energy efficient and that the choice of meat source (chicken, beef, pork or plant) had a role to play.
“However, these [lifecycle analyses] are speculative as they are all based on hypothetical models of what cultured meat production might look like (Stephens et al., 2018). Further monitoring of associated technological developments is needed to complement these speculative models.”
Lab-grown beef may seem like a more ethical alternative to animal slaughter. Prominent animal welfare groups like the UK’s Vegan Society have expressed product support as it helps “reduce animal suffering and the environmental impact of farming” while respecting the fact that cultured meat is non-vegan.
But the ethics of production process itself can divide people.
A controversial aspect of lab-grown beef is that it uses fetal bovine serum (FBS) as a substance to support STEM cell growth. FBS is derived from an unborn fetus of a slaughtered cow which may not be suitable for all consumers.
“Put simply, it’s baby cow blood,” Explain Dr. Celia Homyak, co-director of Alternative Meats Lab at UC Berkeley in the video.
Scientists are working to eventually replace FBS with another substance that will eliminate the reliance on cow fetuses.
“Steakholder Foods is committed to eliminating fetal bovine serum (FBS), an expensive animal-derived ingredient used in cell culture media that fuels stem cells as they differentiate into muscle and fat cells. We have already developed processes that do not require this component and are working to eliminate it as soon as possible,” said the company.
“Our plans are that [FBS] should not be part of any large-scale commercial activity,” Simon Fried, a former Steakholder executive, previously said.
Homyak also hinted that the true environmental impact of mass producing cultured beef could only be known as production increases.
“We don’t know what the carbon footprint looks like to actually increase them, and how much space and energy that will take.”
Time will tell who will win the race to master mass-produced meat – cultured or vegan. More than just food for fuel, eating habits and preferences can be deeply personal and embedded in cultures and belief systems. More than just pioneering technological innovation, the biggest challenge for evolving food tech is winning over people’s perceptions and preferences, and that too, organically (no pun intended).
Note: Neither BleepingComputer nor the author are affiliated with any of the companies and/or their associates and/or the meat producing industry in any way and receive no material or financial favors from publication of this article.