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3D printing as an alternative to produce meat

The population's growing interest in a more sustainable lifestyle is notorious. This new way of life is leading to an increase in vegan diets. In addition, the world is facing an environmental crisis, and natural resources are rapidly depleting. As a result, there is now a massive concern with livestock and agribusinesses’ ethical and ecological impacts. Consequently, many companies have been investing in the development of 3D-printed meat alternatives [1].

Riding the wave of growth in the alternative meat market, an Israeli startup began producing animal-free steaks and ground beef with the aspect, texture, and taste of real meat, offering a sustainable and ethical way to produce meat without compromising the food experience for those who cannot give up animal meat. Bioprinted meats are manufactured using a 3D printer, which replicates any desired meat cut [2].

Figure 1: The process of cooking a 3D printed meat [3].

Traditional plant-based meat replacers are based on centuries-old recipes that use ingredients such as wheat gluten and soy protein processed with flavoring additives to produce a final product tasting like meat. In addition, textured vegetable protein, a dry bulk commodity derived from soy concentrate, is also a standard plant-based meat replacer. All these preparations are already well popularized and marketed; however, plant-based 3D printed meat techniques are still in early development processes but promise to bring several innovations to the food industry, even with the challenges this approach needs to overcome [4].

Unlike traditional plant-based meats, the Israeli startup developed a technique that uses bovine cells to replicate meat’s taste, texture, and look. This result is obtained through extrusion-based bioprinting. The bioinks are composed of a mixture of bovine fat cells, muscle fibers, and blood vessel cells [2,5].

This approach aims to create a product capable of replicating the complex networks of muscle, fat, and connective tissue that give whole cuts of meat their distinctive texture and flavor. However, creating an exemplary network of blood vessels that carry nutrients and waste products in and out of cells is still challenging [5].

Figure 2: The slaughter-free meat printing technique [3].

The perspective for the future of this field is hugely successful. Slaughter-free meat is already being produced even in space, which indicates the feasibility of producing this alternative meat anywhere, regardless of land or abundance of water resources, leaving a minimal environmental footprint [6].


6. Aleph Farms to produce the first slaughter-free meat in space with 3D Bioprinting Solutions. (2020).

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