Wednesday, June 30, 2021

3D Printed Steaks Are Coming Soon

There seems to be growing popularity for plant-based alternatives to meat – and so, Spanish startup Novameat is using its 3D printing technology to manufacture vegetarian “steaks” that they hope will reach the mass market next year. 

Novameat plan to sell their “steaks” directly to consumers and to businesses such as restaurants interested in producing plant-based meat, business development manager Alexandre Campos told Reuters yesterday. 

The Spanish company, which developed the technology in 2018, was showing how their latest 3D printer produced food at Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress (June 28–July 01, 2021). 

Ferran Gregori who tried one of the “steaks” printed at Novameat’s stand at the world’s biggest wireless tech trade fair said: “It didn’t have the feeling of a traditional steak but I was positively surprised because I did not expect that the texture would be so well achieved”. 

The company use 3D technology to test recipes, introducing ingredients through capsules because it is a cheaper process than mass-producing, Campos said. 

Once a model is considered successful, it could then be produced on a larger scale in bigger machines not using 3D technology, manufacturing up to 500 kg of fake meat per hour, he added. 

Campos said the startup’s aim had been to recreate the muscle fibers of animal meat but using 100 percent plant-based ingredients. He forecast the plant-based industry would keep growing at double-digit rates in the foreseeable future. 

The company also said it was producing the fake meat for environmental reasons. 

“(We seek to) replace animal meat for something that is better for the planet, ourselves and animals”, Campos said. 

But in case you’re a “real” meat eater, not to worry! 

There’s already a 3D bio-printed and cultivated ribeye steak made without genetic engineering. Created by Aleph Farms Ltd. and the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, the steak also did not require the slaughter of any animals. 

I understand that 3D bioprinting uses cells instead of ink or plastic to make things. The cultivated ribeye from Aleph Farms has many similarities to a regular steak, such as real muscles and fat.

To create the meat, researchers used 3D bioprinting and real cow cells. The technology allows them to print living cells that can grow and interact in a vascular-like system helping nutrients move and resembling real steak. 

"Our 3D bio-printing is an approach where we assemble a structured piece of meat bottom up outside of the animal from its natural building blocks, which are different types of living animal cells. Our cells are natural, non-GMO and non-immortalized. The 3D bio-printed tissue is then incubated where the cells develop and interact in a similar manner as in nature, granting the tissue the texture and qualities of a steak", Didier Toubia, co-founder and CEO of Aleph Farms shared. 

Aleph Farms' process uses a fraction of the resources required for raising an entire animal for meat, without antibiotics and without the use of fetal bovine serum. Part of the cost savings comes from using natural pluripotent cells that are cultivated in large quantities. Pluripotent cells, such as stem cells, can be used to make all of the other cell types in an organism. 

"The natural pluripotent cells can multiply efficiently and can mature into the cell types that make up meat, like muscle and fat cells. It is enough for us to harvest the cells once, and the procedure we use is non-invasive", Toubia explained. 

In 2018, Aleph Farms made a thin-cut steak, but the new product is thicker and fattier. The company is interested in creating other types of cuts to provide consumers with alternatives to traditional slaughtered meat or plant-based products. 

Aleph Farms want their first products to reach the marketplace in the second half of 2022, according to a Forbes report dated February 12, 2021 – but regulatory approval is required obviously. 

It’s noteworthy to mention that Singapore in 2020 gave its first regulatory approval for Eat Just’s cell-cultured chicken. It will be used as an ingredient in the “chicken bites” or nuggets which the food technology start-up plan to launch at a later date.  

Eventually, cultivated meat may end up on store shelves ready for consumers who want an alternative "meat" option for dinner.

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