No more meat-homogenous mass: the quest for fake meat that looks real
Startups and agri-giants all over the world are engaged in a race to make fake meat that looks, feels, and tastes real — combining the virtues of plant-based protein or lab-grown cells with the enjoyment of a slab of real beef (or pork or chicken). And for reasons that aren’t entirely clear Israeli companies loom large in this competition: it may have something to do with the small, arid country’s long tradition of agricultural experimentation in pursuit of basic self-sufficiency, abetted by its more recent embrace of digital startup culture and new technologies like 3D printing. Whatever the reasons, whenever you eat your first totally convincing fake steak, it may well have been designed in Israel.
- Traveling to the fake meat frontlines, Bloomberg Businessweek visited the offices of Redefine Meat Ltd. in Rehovot, Israel, where researchers are trying to create the perfect cut of meat from plant-based protein, using a 3D printer to recreate all the marbled, textured goodness of real animal protein.
- Redefine Meat CEO Eshchar Ben-Shitrit tells Bloomberg: “All meat alternatives today are basically a meat-homogeneous mass. If you 3D-print it, you can control what’s happening inside the mass to improve the texture and to improve the flavor.”
- Bloomberg describes the process: “First, proprietary computer software creates a detailed model of a steak, including the muscle, fat, and blood, based on whichever cut it’s emulating. That blueprint is then transmitted to a printer loaded with plant-based ‘inks.’ Hit the start button and out comes a “steak.”
- As noted, Redefine Meat is hardly alone in the Israeli push for convincing fake meat. Another Israeli food technology startup, Aleph Farms, recently announced that is has successfully grown artificial cosmic beef aboard the International Space Station, orbiting 248 miles above the Earth. Aleph launched a small sample of bovine muscle cells into space and then grew them into small-scale muscle tissue, building the tissue using a 3D bioprinter.