Recently, Israeli bioprinting company MeaTech 3D Ltd announced that it succeeded in printing a 104 gram (3.67 oz) cultivated steak using their proprietary 3D printing technology. Made of real cultivated fat and muscle cells, the steak is believed to be the largest cultured steak produced to date. The achievement represents another step on the road to mass production of cultured meat, an important goal to combat climate change.
Now, what exactly is cultured meat? Cultured meat, otherwise known as cultivated meat, cell-based meat, or clean meat, is an emerging technology area that involves using cultured animal cells to create meat-like food products. Unlike plant-based meat or other meat analogues (like Impossible Burger or Beyond Meat), cultured meat is produced from the same cells as conventional meat and can theoretically provide an exact replica of the real thing, without requiring animal slaughter and at a fraction of the environmental cost. Over the last few years, enthusiasm around the cultured meat industry and its potential to disrupt the $1 trillion conventional meat industry has been growing. Since 2015, the sector has raised over $600 million in funding, growing from less than five companies to over fifty in the same time frame. In IDTechEx's "Cultured Meat 2021-2041: Technologies, Markets, Forecasts" report, the cultured meat industry is forecast to exceed $10 billion by 2041.
MeaTech's proprietary technology for producing cultured meat is one of many that involves 3D printing. MeaTech's process involves isolating bovine stem cells, multiplying them to reach a critical cellular mass, and making the cells into bio-inks. These bio-inks are then printed using MeaTech's 3D bioprinter, which prints the steak based on a digital CAD model of a steak structure. From here, the printed steak is left in an incubator to allow the stem cells to differentiate into the fat and muscle cells that form the tissues found in steak. It's this interesting technology that allowed MeaTech to become the first cultured meat company and one of 9 3D printing companies to go public in the US in 2021.
MeaTech is not the only 3D bioprinting company or group to unveil its advances in cultured meat development in 2021. Fellow Israeli company Aleph Farms showcased their first 3D-printed rib-eye steak earlier in the year. Aleph Farms' technology involves the printing of living animal cells onto a plant-based matrix, where they are allowed to incubate and grow into steak-like animal tissue. In September, Japanese researchers at the University of Osaka unveiled the first 3D-printed Wagyu beef - a typically expensive cut of beef prized for its fat marbling and flavor. The researchers achieved their Wagyu through the use of two types of stem cells from Wagyu cows, but the flavor performance of their Wagyu - the most important part of Wagyu - remains to be seen. Meanwhile, plant-based meat companies like Redefine Meat are putting the flavor of their cultured meat product front-and-center; in November, Redefine Meat ran taste testing in four cities worldwide of their plant-based meat products. Interestingly, though Redefine Meat produces a plant-based meat product (distinct from cultured meat), they also use 3D printing to create a convincing mimicry of animal tissue structure.
Regardless of their origin, plant or animal, it increasingly seems like the meat of the future will be coming not from animals, but from 3D printers. IDTechEx will continue to be monitoring the technological achievements in both fields to monitor their progress towards mass production and adoption.
Market forecasts for cultured meat, plant-based meat, and 3D printing
For more information on this report, please visit www.IDTechEx.com/CulturedMeat, or for the full portfolio of 3D Printing research available from IDTechEx please visit www.IDTechEx.com/Research/3D.