Innovation That Matters

Researchers used beets to colour the meat and give it the look of conventional meat | Photo source Jie Sun/Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University

Making cultured meat more cost-effective with 3D printing ink

Food & Drink

The edible ink is made from cereal proteins

Spotted: The world’s population is expected to exceed nine billion by 2050, with an accompanying 70 per cent increase in food production needed to feed all those new mouths. With much of the available arable land already in use, technology has a significant role to play in meeting the growing demand for animal products. Cultured meat could be one of the most sustainable ways to do this, and a number of labs and companies are exploring ways to mass produce lab-grown beef, chicken, and shrimp.

Scale of manufacturing and cost of the growth medium are two of the most significant barriers to making cultured meat commercially available. Using 3D printing, researchers from Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, China have created an edible ink capable of supporting the growth of meat cells. The ink is made from cereal biowaste. Barley, rye, and corn proteins form the plant-based ink that is then used to 3D print the scaffolds that the meat cells need in order to grow.

As the meat gets larger, it absorbs and biodegrades the cereal ink. Right now, most scaffolds for cellular meats come from the cells of dead animals. Replacing those cells with plant-based versions helps to reduce the need for contributions from intensively farmed animals, as well as reduce the carbon emissions of the overall production process. Professor Jie Sun, one of the authors of the study, says that further development of plant proteins will help replace the need for any animal cells in the process, thereby further reducing the cost of lab-grown meats. 

Springwise has recently spotted other recent examples of cellular-based meat and fish being grown as part of the work to produce more with fewer natural resources – pork sausages and eel.

Written By: Keely Khoury




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