Last year, Cornell Creative Machines Lab touted 3-D food printing technology the company claimed provided families with the incentive to eat healthier diets.
Most of today’s 3-D food printing concepts use inks that are foods in fluid form, like molten chocolate, cheese, or cookie dough. Foods such as meats and vegetables are ground and mixed with other liquids to create fresh, new food-inks.
These 3-D food printers can produce miniature space shuttle-shaped scallop nuggets and cakes or cookies that display dates, initials or a corporate logo when sliced.
They can also produce hamburger patties with liquid layers of ketchup and mustard, or a vegan hamburger substitute.
3-D Printed Meat
Now billionaire Peter Thiel recently pledged a six-figure grant for 3-D printed meat, based on a set of technologies originally developed for creating medical-grade tissues.
Modern Meadow, a Missouri-based startup and recipient of the grant, claims bioprinted meat is a more environmentally-friendly way to supply animal protein.
Modern Meadow co-founder, Andras Forgacs, is critical of the cost of traditional livestock practices, saying “if you look at the resource intensity of everything that goes into a hamburger, it is an environmental train wreck.”
“Modern Meadow is combining regenerative medicine with 3-D printing to imagine an economic and compassionate solution to a global problem,” said Lindy Fishburne, executive director of Breakout Labs, a project of the Thiel Foundation.
“We hope our support will help propel them through the early stage of their development, so they can turn their inspired vision into reality.”
(See CNET’s Q&A with Thiel from last year.)
Declan McCullagh, chief political correspondent for CNET, notes 3-D printing of meat is still in the early stages due to its prohibitively high cost, but it’s long been a staple of science fiction.
“In the fictional universe of Orion’s Arm, for instance, there are prillets, animals that are printed without any bones at all, often premarinated. In vitro meat, sometimes called shmeat, appeared in William Gibson’s Neuromancer, and an original Star Trek episode featured synthetic meatloaf.”
Modern Meadow’s prepared a summary of its work as part of a submission to the Department of Agriculture’s small business grant program.
It says its short-term goal is to create a sliver of synthetic meat that’s less than one inch long:
“So far, bio-printing has been applied to build three-dimensional tissues and organ structures of specific architecture and functionality for purposes of regenerative medicine. Here we propose to adapt this technology to building meat products for consumption. The technology has several advantages in comparison to earlier attempts to engineer meat in vitro. The bio-ink particles can be reproducibly prepared with mixtures of cells of different type…
“Printing ensures consistent shape, while post-printing structure formation and maturation in the bioreactor facilitates conditioning… We anticipate that this Phase I application will result in a macroscopic size (~2 cm x 1 cm x 0.5 mm) edible prototype and will demonstrate that bio-printing-based in vitro meat production is feasible, economically viable and environmentally practical. Successful in vitro meat engineering addresses a number of societal needs, thus the commercialization of the method has high market potential.”