COULD 3D PRINTED MEAT TURN THE WORLD VEGAN?

With sustainability at the forefront of the food and beverage industry’s agenda, it’s no surprise that meat products are being replaced by plant-based alternatives. Earlier this year the California-based ‘Beyond Meat’ became the first ‘vegan IPO’ when they floated their shares on the Nasdaq stock exchange. But there has also been an even greater recent innovation with the advent of 3D printed “meat”.  

Startups, ‘Redefine Meat’, and  ‘Novameat’ have developed 3D printing technology to create healthy and sustainable meat-free products, which recreate the taste, texture and cooking properties of real meat. Vegan ingredients such as rice, peas and seaweed, are turned into a food paste that is then 3D-printed to form a raw, steak-like substance. 

Leading Novameat researcher, Giuseppe Scionti of the Polytechnic University of Catalonia in Barcelona explains: “the taste of the first prototypes is good, but it does’t mimic the taste of animal meat, yet. However, that does not worry me, because the technologies to imitate the taste of animal meat have already been developed, while the main challenge for me was to obtain the animal meat-like consistency and texture, which was not invented yet”.

Credits: El País, Consuelo Bautista

Credits: El País, Consuelo Bautista

THE PROCESS OF CREATING A 3D PRINTED STEAK 

Giuseppe Scionti modified a traditional 3D printer, to which he added a syringe to extrude the “meat paste”. This mixture is then transformed into printing micro-filaments that form the piece of meat layer by layer over time. Scionti is currently able to produce 110 grams of raw vegetarian steak in 30 to 50 minutes. The final product mimics the texture and appearance of a real beef steak.

IMAGE: Novameat

IMAGE: Novameat

Scionti hopes that Novameat’s plant-based meat products will be on the supermarket shelves in the next three to five years. “At the moment, our products can mimic the texture and a simplified appearance of beefsteaks and chicken breast meats, but achieving products that are able to simultaneously mimic the texture, the appearance, the taste and the nutritional properties of specific pieces of fibrous meat is not trivial,” he said. “That will be the focus of Novameat in the first place. Then it will be fundamental to scale up the production, to bring it to the supermarkets and to the rural areas of the planet, where meat substitutes are most needed.” 

Photo via Giuseppe Scionti

Photo via Giuseppe Scionti

The experts agree that the need for printed meat is inevitable thanks to a growing population that is predicted to reach 9 billion by 2050. The average European eats 80kg of meat per year, while North Americans and Australians eat over 110kg per year. It seems likely that 3D printed meats could decrease the negative impact of animal farming while providing an alternative to other meat-free food products. 

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