Can You 3D Print Meat?
With enough evidence to back up, it is safe to say the answer to this question is YES, meat can be 3D-printed. A description of 3D-printed meat simply is, redefining meat using 3D printers. It can be made using a mix of pea protein, soy, beetroot, chickpeas, and coconut fat. 3D-printed meat is usually high in protein and contains little or no cholesterol, it looks, tastes, and feels like meat gotten directly from animals. Another word used for 3D-printed steak and grounded beef is ‘’Alternative meat’’.
A simple explanation of how this works is cloning real meat without having to kill the animals, this is a method that has low or no environmental impacts.
The increased advancement of technology has brought about the production of 3D printers with proprietary formulas which use 100% ingredients to print meat. As strange as this might sound, it is already a reality.
The main aim behind the idea of 3D print meat is not to turn people to veganism but for the purpose of recreating meat, this was backed up by the fact that the products used in the 3D printing of meat were made in recommendations from butchers and chefs.
The concept of 3D print meat would have never existed years ago not only because technology had not evolved to the stage it is now but also because of the amount of value that was attached to natural items in the early years. Presently, meat is being 3D-printed and reports from those who have tried the printed meat have shown that it tastes 90% or more like the real meat, leveraging on the taste, texture, smell, and physical appearance of the meat.
This was mainly achieved by the combination of 3D printing technology and artificial intelligence. It is also made possible by reducing association with radicals to the barest minimum to accurately replicate the usual feel of animal meat’s muscle fibers, and also the juicy texture.
3D printing is an innovative idea of recreating meat to achieve an item closely related to real meat. The following describes the importance and relevance that 3D-printed meat will add to the world if adopted by the population.
- One of the benefits of adopting 3D-printed meat is that it can be used in place of livestock, which contributes to global warming by emitting methane and other greenhouse gases stronger than carbon dioxide. It shares almost 30% of the planet’s ice-free surface by contributing more to greenhouse gas emissions.
- Beyond livestock’s relevance to global warming, the increase in meat demand in coming years seems enormous and might be difficult to control if the new alternative is not adopted, because the demand for meat might not match up with the availability of livestock. An estimate made by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has shown that by 2050, the demand for meat is likely to increase by 70%.
- Food contamination and antibiotic resistance issues arising from livestock farming are two additional reasons for adopting 3D-printed meat if the aforementioned reasons appear too weak to consider. The serious health issues these impose on the population are enough to convince them to explore the different ways of producing meat.
- The slaughtering of livestock animals for food purposes is a top contributor to deforestation, land degradation, water pollution, and desertification because their existence plays a major role in environmental balance.
- The raw materials for 3D-printed meat seem readily available. The low cost of entry-level printers and the ease of customization have made the production of 3D-printed meat easier and faster to meet demand.
It cannot be denied that there are still some limitations that come with the adoption of 3D-printed meat. Some of them are;
- They are still relatively expensive. Due to the low production capabilities, the products are expensive, and until there is visible growth in the manufacturing levels, there is no chance of bringing down the prices. Currently, the price of traditional meat is cheaper than the price of 3D-printed meat.
- Another disadvantage of 3D-printed meat is the low level of precision and long-processing time. Despite the fact that there are manufacturing guidelines in place for the manufacturing and processing of 3D-printed meat, 100% precision cannot be guaranteed, and the process takes a long time due to its lengthy manufacturing procedures.
- There is the probability of loss of a product due to the delicacy of the 3D-printed features. There could be a rough or grainy appearance and the necessity of post-processing to remove moisture or improve the strength of the printed foods.
There are quite a number of startups involved in 3D-printed meat, these top five were picked considering factors like location, founding year, and technology.
- Redefine Meat (3D printing animal-free meat)
Due to the consequences of consuming live meat on global emissions, there is a demand for innovation in technology to provide alternative meat. Startups are working hard to ensure that the taste, appearance, texture, and flavor of 3D meat are nearly identical to that of real meat. Redefine Meat was developed by the Israelis to provide a meat alternative by using natural ingredients only. It is also more affordable than real meat and contains low or no cholesterol. This was achieved by combining 3D meat modeling, food formulations, and food printing technology.
- Graphiques Desserts (3D Printing Desserts)
The major tasks in dessert making, especially cake, are the final stages, which is the essential stage that adds intricate designs and shapes to the appearance of desserts. Technology advancement has found a way to reduce manual effort by inventing machines or robots to finish the decorating and icing stages. 3D food printing also gives higher throughput, even with complex designs. French startup 3 Desserts Graphiques were behind the manufacture of 3D printers for deserts. They were developed in conformation to CE regulations regarding health, safety, and environmental standards.
- The Dutch Flow 3D food Design Platform
This is a3D food design platform startup flow that invented 3D food printing for restaurants, caterers, and chefs.
It brings about consistency in the quality and appearance of the food. 3D printers are used to prepare multiple deserts in restaurants using several ingredients thereby creating more revenue. This also gives the opportunity to startups to create the backend software capabilities and designs that are used as templates for printing food. Users can readily choose everything from the ingredients such as chocolate, fondant, gauche, etc.
- Beehex-3D Baking Decoration Tool
In large-scale producing confectionaries, there is high demand for 3D print, this technology advancement allows several automation which makes processes easier and faster. The ability to use different ingredients to print 3D elements of a dish is advancing the food industry. The US-based startup Beehex helps to personalize and prepare food with the use of advanced 3D printing and robots.
- Shiyin Technology-3D Food Printer
It was created by the Chinese to provide consumer-grade food printers. It was created with the help of artificial intelligence (AI). This makes the production of food relatively easier. 3D printing allows cooks to create designs and customize recipes within a short period of time, turning them into the desired item. The additive manufacturing technology has assisted in reducing effort while maintaining quality, consistency, aesthetics, and precision. This 3D food printer is automated to verify the input recipes against a cloud-based repository before printing begins.
There is a need for more public awareness about the redefined meat product, explaining basic aspects of its processes and that it is developed in association with the world's recognized butchers, meat experts, and chefs, ensuring that the maximum culinary experience is found in real meat is obtained in the 3D meat. Notably, all redefined meat is made from natural, plant-based ingredients and is free of cholesterol, antibiotics, and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).
Currently, Redefine Meat has expanded into Europe with 30+ restaurants in London, Berlin, and Amsterdam with the plan of reaching thousands of restaurants across Europe by the end of next year. The price of 3D print meat is still quite expensive, which is one of the reasons why it has not been in the spotlight. But sharing reviews on the taste, appearance and flavor is another way of encouraging the adoption of 3D meat.