How would you like your steak: rare, well done or 3D printed? Well, thanks to scientists in Japan, this is now a legitimate question as they managed to create the world’s first 3D printed Wagyu meat. While it may seem unbelievable, researchers at the University of Osaka say the lab-raised steak bears a strong resemblance to that made from world-renowned Wagyu cattle. To do this, the team isolated stem cells from Wagyu cows. These stem cells were incubated and converted into muscle, fat and blood vessel cells.
With the help of 3D printing technology, this was then converted into a three-dimensional pile that resembled real steak, with precision even in its marbling. Marbling is what most meat connoisseurs and food experts will be looking out for, as it lends the meat its rich flavors and distinctive texture. Wagyu meat is famous around the world for this marbling.
According to an article published in the journal Nature Communications, the beef created had a diameter of 5 mm and a length of 10 mm. “In this study, a total of 72 fibers comprising 42 muscles, 28 adipose tissues and 2 blood capillaries were constructed by integrated tendon-gel bioprinting and manually assembled to make meat similar to a steak”, detailed the article.
Speaking about the development, lead author Dong-Hee Kang said in a statement: “Using the histological structure of Wagyu beef as a design, we developed a 3D printing method that can produce custom-made complex structures such as muscle fibers, fat and blood vessels. ”
What does this mean for the food and meat industries? It could be the beginning of a more sustainable future, explained the team. “This work can help usher in a more sustainable future with widely available farmed beef that is closer to existing products,” said Dong-Hee Kang.
Along the same lines, senior author Michiya Matsusaki added that improving the technology would help make subtle adjustments to fat and muscle components. This, the team explained, would help people make informed decisions about the type of farmed meat they want to consume. The development of technology would help meat eaters to consider what they want to consume based on the desired amount of fat, flavor and health parameters of the meat being farmed.
The development comes at a time when even “grown meat has attracted tremendous attention from an ethical, economic, environmental and public health standpoint,” the paper said. The technology gains even more relevance at a time when the livestock techniques currently practiced are considered unsustainable from the point of view of climate change and population explosion.