What the Hell is 3D Printed Meat? A Look At redefine meat


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Eating Meat

Plant-based alternatives have exploded in popularity in recent years, from simple products like toothbrushes to ingested proteins like Redefine Meat’s product. Companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have made major inroads with products designed to replicate the taste and texture of real meat. But now a new player is emerging in the alternative protein space: 3D printed meat.

How Does 3D Printed Meat Work?

3D printed meat, also known as cultured or cell-based meat, is real animal meat that is produced without slaughtering animals. It is made by taking cells from animals and growing them into muscle and fat tissues.

The process starts by isolating stem cells from a biopsy of livestock. These cells are then cultured and proliferated in a nutrient-rich solution called a growth medium. The cells multiply rapidly, allowing a small sample to be expanded into large quantities of meat.

Once enough cells are produced, they are shaped into finished cuts of meat using 3D printing technology. The cells are layered and fused, replicating the texture and appearance of real meat from animals. Fat cells can also be integrated to mimic the marbling in cuts like steak.

The resulting “meat” contains the same protein, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids as conventional meat. However, it is grown in sterile bioreactors without antibiotics or growth hormones.

Why Produce 3D Printed Meat?

There are several motivating factors behind the development of cultured meat:

  • Environmental impact – Livestock production is resource-intensive, using massive amounts of land, water and feed. Lab-grown meat could reduce the environmental footprint of meat production by over 95%, according to some estimates.
  • Animal welfare – Over 70 billion animals are slaughtered for food each year worldwide. Cultured meat would eliminate the need to raise and kill animals for food production.
  • Food security – The global population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050. 3D printed meat offers a potentially sustainable way to feed the world without expanding factory farms.
  • Customization – Cell-based meat production enables infinite control over fat content, texture, flavour profile and nutrition. Specific meat products could be tailored to consumer preferences.

Redefine Meat leads the charge

Redefine Meat Ad

One company at the forefront of 3D printed meat is Redefine Meat, based in Israel. Founded in 2018, Redefine Meat has raised over $160 million in funding to date.

The company uses a specialised 3D printing process it calls “additive manufacturing” to produce whole cuts of plant-based and cell-based meat.

In November 2021, Redefine Meat unveiled New Meat, their latest line of 3D printed beef substitutes. New Meat aims to perfectly replicate the appearance, flavour and texture of real beef. To showcase New Meat, Redefine Meat hosted a tasting for chefs and food critics at Chotto Matte restaurant in London. The 3D printed beef cuts were prepared in dishes like spicy teriyaki and lamb curry.

Jordan Sclare, head chef at Chotto Matte, noted the similarities between New Meat and real meat:

“When you’re slicing it, there’s a hell of many similarities. When you’re cooking it on the barbecue, you can tell that it is a bit different because it cooks very fast and it sears quite quickly.”

Redefine Meat has launched New Meat in restaurants across Europe since 2022 with good reviews from countries like Italy. A new production facility opening in the Netherlands will allow them to manufacture 5,000 metric tons of 3D printed meat per year.

Inside the process

Redefine Meat closely guards the exact ingredients and production process for New Meat. But here is some insight into how they replicate the properties of real meat:

  • Appearance – Using natural colours extracted from fruits and vegetables, Redefine Meat is able to recreate the characteristic red hue expected from beef and lamb cuts. Beetroot powder and annatto extract are commonly used natural colouring agents capable of producing vivid red tones.
  • Texture – Controlling the precise fibre structure is key to mimicking the mouthfeel and chewing of real meat. Redefine Meat leverages additive manufacturing, building up the substitute meats layer-by-layer. This 3D printing approach allows them to weave plant-based proteins into a complex matrix that mirrors muscle and fat tissue’s fibrous texture and marbling.
  • Flavours – Redefine Meat says they start with real “muscle and fat cells” as a base to carry the authentic flavours of meat. Emulsions and meat-like flavour compounds derived from yeast or plants help to round out the savoury umami taste. Reaction flavours formed when cooking, like those produced by the Maillard reaction between amino acids and sugars, also play a role.
  • Aroma – The characteristic aroma of cooked meat comes from complex volatile compounds like aldehydes, ketones, alcohols and furans. Redefine Meat has studied how to replicate these fragrant molecules synthesised when animal proteins are heated to high temperatures. The smell of meat cooking triggers cravings and appetite, making it a key sensory marker.
  • “Blood” – The juices that leak out of real meat during cooking contain haemoglobin, giving them a distinctly bloody colour. Redefine Meat admits they use some type of plant-based compound to emulate the appearance of pinkish meat juices on their products. Beetroot juice is a likely candidate capable of mimicking the colour and fluidity of myoglobin-rich blood.

By fully analysing and reconstructing the sensory experience of cooked animal meat, Redefine Meat aims to make products that carnivores find completely satisfying. Their use of 3D printing technology allows for unmatched control and customization in both plant-based and cell-cultured formulations.

The future of 3D printed meat

Redefine Meat is not alone in exploring the potential of cell-based meat production. Many startups are racing to improve 3D bioprinting technology and bring lab-grown meat to market, especially since it was given the all clear by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

MeaTech is another company using 3D printing to culture real chicken and beef tissue. In 2021, they successfully printed a whole 3.67-ounce steak in their facilities.

Nova Meat processing

Novameat has taken a different approach, using an extrusion-based 3D printer to create plant-based meat alternatives. Their technology can shape soy, pea and rice proteins into realistic steak and pork imitations.

The main obstacles facing lab-grown meat are regulation and production costs. However, innovative startups are overcoming the technical hurdles. It seems inevitable that 3D-printed meats will eventually compete with traditional meat.

Many see cell-cultured meats as the future of sustainable protein production. While the concept may seem strange, 3D printed meat could transform our food system and reduce the environmental impacts of meat. The tech is still evolving, but the benefits could be game-changing.

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