Would you eat a 3D-printed steak?
A 3D-printed fake steak? What about a 3D-printed meat steak?
There is a huge movement, that has been gathering steam for years, to encourage people to eat less meat. Did you know any vegans 20 years ago? I didn't! Even vegetarianism was rare. Nowadays, it's much more common and we are much more educated about the reasons behind going vegan.
There is the obvious animal welfare concern and now we know that the production of meat can be harmful to the environment. These are, valid reasons to give up meat. But it's not always that easy.
To maintain some semblance of familiarity, there are items like the Impossible burger that are made to look and taste just like the real thing but that are made of plant or soy protein. I know meat eaters and vegetarians who find them very tasty – but it seems that one good fake does not a veggie make!
How can 3D printers solve this?
3D printers have been about for ages now. They are still really cool, but most of us have the gist of them. They lay down material, one layer at a time, until an object is formed. Very cool, very useful. What has it got to do with food, though?
Well, much in the same way that they can sculpt objects out of plastic, you can program them to print plant based material too. In this respect, you can 'feed' the printer the material you want your meal to be made from and program it to print as you desire. Plant based steak? Not a problem!
Companies like Nova Meat and Redefine Meat have done just that. They are developing a range of cartridges containing the ingredients needed to make different items, such as burgers, steaks, mince, etc.
Not bad, right?
That's still fake...
Yes. And some people are just not into it. That's ok, because the same company, and many companies around the world, are working towards incorporating animal cells, grown in a lab.
We have the technology to grow entire organs in labs. A steak is essentially a big chunk of muscle – and we can culture muscle cells in a dish in a laboratory. It's not too much of a stretch to think that we could generate a 'real' steak this way – avoiding the water, land, emissions, and the life of an animal needed to make meat the traditional way.
Would you eat it?