Oct 20, 2015 | By Kira

The many issues surrounding modern meat eating—from the sickening treatment of farm animals, to unsustainable farming practices, to fatal BSE epidemics—can make that juicy double bacon cheeseburger you just ordered more than a little hard to digest. Yet all the same, there is a growing demand for meat products that traditional farming practices are finding hard to meet. In order to appease our appetites and our consciences, Dutch scientists are working on bringing the first completely lab-grown meat products to the market by the year 2020.

Food Technician Peter Verstrate and Maastricht University professor Mark Post have been working on 3D printed meat grown from beef stem cells since 2013. While their initial prototype convincingly looked and tasted just like a real burger, developing it cost a prohibitive  $331,000. Now, they have amped-up their efforts, hiring up to 25 new scientists, lab technicians and managers to their company, Mosa Meats, in order to create a more reasonably priced, tastier, and mass-producible version in the very near future.

The process begins with stem cells extracted from cow muscle tissue. These are cultured with nutrients and growth-promoting chemicals, which within three weeks help them multiply to more than a million muscle cells strong.  These are put into smaller dishes, where they coalesce into small strips of muscle just a few centimetres long and a few millimetres thick. Finally, these strips are layered together, coloured, and mixed with fat using a ‘bio-cartridge’ and 3D printing technology to precisely layer each element together. The resulting pink substance, whether in its raw or cooked form, could almost fool even the most seasoned grill-master. In fact, at a taste-test two years ago, the prototype was said to taste just like a real burger, if perhaps a bit less juicy.

"It consisted of protein, muscle fibre. But meat is much more than that it is blood, its fat its connective tissue, all of which adds to the taste and texture,” said Verstrate of that initial prototype. "If you want to mimic meat you have to make all those things too - and you can use tissue engineering technologies - but we hadn't done that at the time." The Dutch researchers have been working tirelessly, learning from their past mistakes and constantly incorporating the latest technologies in order to make their vision a reality.

“I feel extremely excited about the prospect of this product being on sale…I am confident that when it is offered as an alternative to meat that increasing numbers of people will find it hard not to buy our product for ethical reasons,” said Verstrate, who has his MSc in Food Technology & Agriculture and is also a member of the InVitromeat Foundation.

The news comes from the first International Symposium on Cultured Meat, held between October 18-20, where scientists are presenting the most cutting-edge cases of 3D printed human tissues and stem cell research for transplants. While 3D printed meat may seem like a secondary concern when compared to life-saving transplant surgeries, current farming practices could actually be as much a threat to our health and our environment’s well being. Cow and other animal farms use an unsustainable amount of energy, land, and water (each cow needs up to 23 gallons of water a day—humans need just one) during the raising and slaughtering processes, while the animals themselves are guilty of producing large amounts of methane gasses. With draughts around the world and our natural resources dwindling, it’s high time to find a more ecologically sane solution.

According to the BBC, an independent study found that lab grown beef uses 45% less energy than the average global representative figure for farming cattle, produces 96% fewer greenhouse gas emmissions, and requires 99% less land.

Currently, Mosa Meats predicts they will have a marketable version ready by 2020, which will at first be available as an exclusive product order, before eventually being sold in supermarkets once demand has been established, the price comes down, and various food regulations have been met. After that, the same technology could be used to create chops, or other cuts of meat, though there’s no word on how long that could take to commercialize.

Whether you’re a dedicated meat-lover or on the cusp of giving it all up for a life of greens and beans, 3D printed, lab-grown burgers will almost certainly be a welcome reality—not only for the farm animals themselves, but also for our entire planet’s wellbeing.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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Ernest wrote at 7/16/2016 10:47:39 PM:

Wow just imagine how much land it could save...

Marionronx wrote at 6/19/2016 12:59:37 AM:

McDonald's would be more than happy to 3D print their hamburger without relying on 3rd parties

Marissa wrote at 4/26/2016 7:07:08 PM:

McDonald's isn't already doing this, that would be amazing if it were...McDonald's is one of the cruelest companies on the planet

Daddy Phriday wrote at 1/22/2016 5:32:37 AM:

Thats Awesome. But I bet Mcdonalds is already doing this?

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