On December 7, the Israeli company MeaTech 3D developed the largest laboratory-grown steak to date, weighing nearly 110 grams.
Steak is made of real fat and muscle cells taken from a sample of live cattle tissue. It does not use any soy or pea protein, and will produce pleasant grill marks when cooked.
▲ Finished product. Picture from: MeaTech 3D
The production process combines cell biology, tissue engineering science and precision bioprinting technology:
First, the bovine stem cells are separated from the tissue sample and reproduced. After reaching sufficient cell quality, the stem cells are formulated into "biological ink" compatible with the MeaTech 3D bioprinter, and then put into the 3D bioprinter to print the "meat" "Mature in the incubator, the stem cells differentiate into fat and muscle cells, and then develop into fat and muscle tissue.
▲ Production process. Picture from: MeaTech 3D
The company stated that the steak "looks, tastes, smells and feels the same as the breed."
But we can't taste it ourselves. This "world's largest" steak is indeed more like "meat" in terms of look and size. Around 2018, the meat produced in the laboratory was more like minced meat and was usually used in “unstructured” products such as burgers.
Similarly, according to the Daily Mail, in August this year, scientists used stem cells to grow the world's first 3D printed Wagyu beef. They said it was marbled and looked like real.
▲ 3D printing Wagyu beef. Picture from: dailymail
MeaTech 3D wrote in the press release that the goal is to develop a product that truly replaces traditional steaks, maximizing "cell-based ingredients" rather than non-meat ingredients.
Ai Faner once listed the benefits of using animal stem cells to make meat in the first cup of cell culture coffee : the cultivation environment is 100% controllable, sterile and pollution-free; while solving the problem of food shortages, it protects water and land; extracts stem cells. The operation caused little pain to the livestock.
▲ Cell culture coffee. Picture from: VTT
However, the production of cell culture meat may require a lot of energy, and if it is not from a low-carbon source, it may cause a lot of emissions.
Around the world, cell culture meat has become a trend. In addition to beef, chicken, pork and even sea bass fillets are being produced by companies around the world using cell culture methods. MeaTech 3D itself is also developing cell lines for pork and chicken.
However, taste and economic costs are another matter. Cultivating a thin piece of beef requires a lot of muscle fiber cells. In 2018, another Israeli team, Aleph Farms, launched artificial beef. A small prototype cost US$50, but the taste needs to be perfected.
▲ Picture from: Aleph Farms
In this regard, MeaTech 3D may also take a step forward. Seren Kel of the European Gastronomy Institute pointed out that 3D printing can create more complex products that can truly reproduce the taste, texture and mouthfeel of traditional meat.
But cost is always an issue. According to the Guardian, 3D printing is now commonplace. MeaTech 3D has not yet demonstrated that its technology can scale up and produce steaks at a reasonable cost; another company dedicated to laboratory meat, Meatable, hopes to eliminate The need for repeated extraction of starting cells from animals.
Even if we want to try it, the steak will not appear on our table anytime soon. It will take several years to wait from the development to the market.
▲ Picture from: Eat Just
At the end of 2020, cell culture meat was approved for sale by regulatory agencies for the first time. At that time, the "chicken nuggets" produced by Eat Just in the United States passed the safety review of the Singapore Food Board. The product is also much more expensive than traditional chicken. Eat Just said that it is nutritionally the same as traditional meat and will eventually be cheaper.
Didier Toubia, CEO of Aleph Farms, once pointed out that although they created a slaughter-free steak, they did not intend to replace traditionally raised grass-fed cattle. "We are not opposed to traditional agriculture. The main problem today is intensive factory farming. Facilities. These facilities are very inefficient, have serious pollution, and have lost their relationship with animals."
▲ Picture from: unsplash
Some companies in the industry believe that, compared to plant-based meat substitutes, laboratory-grown meat is the most likely product to free meat eaters from traditional sources; Carsten Gerhardt of AT Kearney, a global consulting company, said that cultured meat will replace cuts. Traditional meats, cheaper plant-based products are more likely to replace burgers and sausages.
But it must be admitted that cultivated meat is unlikely to become mainstream in a few years, unless it matches the cost of traditional meat. As production processes move from laboratories to scalable commercial facilities, costs may drop. Seren Kel believes that billions of dollars of government investment is needed for research and commercialization.
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