The push for fake meat continues to grow stronger. As companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods release great-tasting products and add chain restaurants to their list of customers, people seem to be even more excited about meatless meat.
However, those products are simply a well-designed mixture of different plant proteins. The other type of alternative meat is a bit more technical. It is grown (yes, grown) in a lab. Now, researchers from Israel have created a process that produces “meat” that tastes and smells like real beef.
Growing meat in a lab isn’t a simple task. Nor is it one that many people are interested in pursuing. However, for the Israeli research team, it is important work.
Their process utilizes a 3D scaffold made from textured soy protein, which is a byproduct of soybean oil production. Then, the team introduces a few bovine cells to the medium. These are allowed to grow and reproduce normally around the soy scaffold.
When the process is complete, the scaffold is completely enveloped in beef-like muscle tissue. After going through a taste test, three volunteers said that the lab-grown beef had “a pleasantly meaty flavor.”
They also claim that its texture is comparable to that of real meat. Of course, getting the texture right is the hardest part of creating plant-based meat. Replicating the flavor is fairly easy. Creating a plant protein mixture (or a lab-grown sample) that has the same texture as beef is far more challenging.
That’s where the use of actual cow cells comes into play. Growing meat in a lab means that its structure is recreated on a molecular level. As a result, its texture is far closer to the real thing.
Technically, the lab-grown product is still meat. However, it doesn’t involve farming or killing an animal to harvest it. The meat can simply be harvested once it is finished growing while a few cells are left behind to start a new cycle.
The team recently published a study with their findings in the journal Nature Food.
The Uncommon Road
Consumers have been quick to accept plant-based meat into their diets. Thanks to collaborations with restaurants like Burger King and Dunkin’, both Impossible and Beyond are household names.
However, their process of creating alternative meat is far less “sci-fi” than growing it in a lab. Products from Impossible and Beyond do taste a lot like meat. Yet, they sometimes fall short in the texture department.
Although it will likely take some convincing before everyday consumers are ready to eat lab-grown meat, it could be a good path forward. Simply put, current methods of meat production aren’t sustainable. As the world’s population continues to grow, more people will need to add some alternative meat into their diet unless they want to forego it entirely. Even though it sounds crazy, lab-grown meat could easily become a staple of everyday life sometime in the future.