Is 3D printing the future of alternative meat?

Is 3D printing the future of alternative meat?

By
Laura Robinson
May 19, 2020

It’s Saturday morning. You roll out of bed and head over to the kitchen. Your coffee machine pours you an espresso, which you sip slowly while your 3D printer prints out a juicy breakfast steak.

Does this scenario seem a bit far-fetched? It may just be closer than you think. From Burger King’s Impossible Whopper and McDonald’s Big Vegan to Greggs iconic vegan sausage roll, alternative meat has finally gone mainstream. In fact, a report published last year predicted that by 2040, 60% of the meat we eat will not have come from slaughtered animals.

This has left manufacturers, retailers and restaurants alike eager to explore a wider range of product innovations, with an even more convincing taste and mouthfeel and scalable production methods that can bring down prices. And this is the gap in a highly lucrative market that many 3D meat printing start-ups are rushing to fill – and attracting significant investment along the way.

So let’s get our heads around how 3D printing works and how it can help food system actors meat - pun intended - rapidly growing demand.

So how do you print meat?

3D printers squeeze ingredients out of a nozzle and build up the product in layers to imitate muscle fibres, aiming to create products that taste and feel like the real deal. The ingredients come in a cartridge and can either be plant-based – like peas, rice and algae – or made from animal cells grown in a lab.

Of course, printers need to follow instructions and each steak needs to be designed - from the shape of the cut to which ingredients should be distributed where. But this approach also allows start-ups to quickly iterate and optimize their prototypes at relatively low cost. As new products are created, printers only need a software update to be able to print them. So ranges could develop quickly over time. There’s even some talk of butchers or manufacturers designing their own in future.

What’s driving the trend?

Consumers are more health conscious than ever before. For many of us, eating a greasy burger no longer feels consistent with our values. But of course, our love of indulgence and obsession with protein has us seeking viable alternatives. So plant-based meats that are free from cholesterol seem a much better fit – especially high-end products that offer experience-hungry millennials something new and exciting to try.

Then there’s the growing number of consumers whose decisions are driven by the ecological impacts of meat. In fact, studies show that a concern for the environment is now the second most frequently given reason for cutting meat out of our diets. While more and more people are identifying as vegans and vegetarians, it’s the growing army of flexitarians who are truly driving this trend. Studies now claim that somewhere between 1 in 3 and 1 in 5 of all consumers would place themselves in this category.  

What’s being printed – and what are the challenges?

Eager to distinguish themselves from the well-established burger market, most 3D meat printing start-ups have focused on recreating the high-end meat experience. So steaks – the holy grail of plant-based meat - have naturally been a popular choice. But many companies have already been developing designs for other cuts of meat - from pork, lamb and chicken thighs to salmon, tuna and seafood.

But recreating high-end meat is no easy feat. Given that steaks tend to be featured centre stage of a meal, consumers don’t only expect the taste and mouthfeel to be spot on. Their appearance needs to be similarly droolworthy. One of the first prototypes unveiled at the Mobile World Congress in 2018 left critics claiming it looked more like a pancake than a sirloin. But this year, the latest prototype was already looking a lot more steak-like. Good news for consumers, who also want to eat with their eyes.

Meat the contenders: Nova Meat and Redefine Meat

In 2018, Giuseppe Scionti created the world’s first 3D printed meat, almost by accident. For ten years he’d been working on creating bioengineered animal tissues. But one day he happened to create some tissue that was surprisingly similar to animal tissue. Now founder and CEO of Nova Meat, he’s developed a “Nespresso for meat substitutes”. So far, Giuseppe has been working with culinary experts to perfect their “Steak 2.0”. But this month his company released its latest development - 3D printed pork – and apparently fish prototypes are also in the pipeline. The company now plans to start selling steaks to restaurants by the end of this year. But their long-term aim is to license out their 3D printing technology to plant-based meat manufacturers – a development that might be accelerated due to COVID-19 causing chaos in the food service sector.

Eshchar Ben-Shitrit grew up a meat connoisseur, learning how to cook the perfect steak in his uncle’s restaurant. But this all changed when he became a father. Suddenly, he could no longer stomach the idea of eating an animal’s child. So in 2018 he quit his job and founded Redefine Meat – determined to find a way to reconcile his love of meat with a more sustainable and ethical future. By 2019, his fledgling team had closed a $6 million seed round to finalize the development of their proprietary alternative meat 3D printer. In addition to trailing products in the Swiss, French and German markets later this year, the Redefine Meat team also plans to sell their machines and ingredient packs to meat processing partners, allowing them to print their own products to sell on to retailers and restaurants.

Shooting for the moon

So will 3D meat printing truly take off? Experts think it’s not a question of if, but when. They see 3D printers becoming a standard addition to restaurants and homes in the not so distant future. Others see potential for scalable 3D meat printing solutions to ensure that consumers across the world - regardless of their budgets – can benefit from high quality protein.

And, for some ambitious companies, even world domination isn’t enough. Israeli company, Aleph Farms, recently teamed up with Russian bioprinter developers to successfully print meat in space.

But ultimately, when it comes to successful food products, taste will always be king. The company that manages to create a steak that’s just as mouth-wateringly juicy as the real thing may just be able to carve off a significant slice of the faux meat market from their burger-making competitors.

Business opportunities

  • Looking to tempt in plant-loving, novelty-hungry customers post corona? Try partnering with start-ups to be one of the first restaurants to offer your customers 3D printed steaks.  
  • 3D printing isn’t just limited to meat. Tests have shown that it can be used in a wide range of applications – from cookie dough to ice cream and marzipan. Connect with 3D printing start-ups to see how the latest developments could transform your production methods.

Written by
Laura Robinson

From policy geek to digital consultant, Laura has always enjoyed bringing people together through words or tools to drive positive change. She is most proud of finally taking the leap into entrepreneurship by founding Pink Pear Agency - a network of passionate specialists who help food businesses grow innovative projects and share their stories with the world. Laura is currently interested in project development and management, digital tools, content strategy and copywriting.

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  • Read Unlimited Articles
  • Access Member Directory
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It’s Saturday morning. You roll out of bed and head over to the kitchen. Your coffee machine pours you an espresso, which you sip slowly while your 3D printer prints out a juicy breakfast steak.

Does this scenario seem a bit far-fetched? It may just be closer than you think. From Burger King’s Impossible Whopper and McDonald’s Big Vegan to Greggs iconic vegan sausage roll, alternative meat has finally gone mainstream. In fact, a report published last year predicted that by 2040, 60% of the meat we eat will not have come from slaughtered animals.

This has left manufacturers, retailers and restaurants alike eager to explore a wider range of product innovations, with an even more convincing taste and mouthfeel and scalable production methods that can bring down prices. And this is the gap in a highly lucrative market that many 3D meat printing start-ups are rushing to fill – and attracting significant investment along the way.

So let’s get our heads around how 3D printing works and how it can help food system actors meat - pun intended - rapidly growing demand.

So how do you print meat?

3D printers squeeze ingredients out of a nozzle and build up the product in layers to imitate muscle fibres, aiming to create products that taste and feel like the real deal. The ingredients come in a cartridge and can either be plant-based – like peas, rice and algae – or made from animal cells grown in a lab.

Of course, printers need to follow instructions and each steak needs to be designed - from the shape of the cut to which ingredients should be distributed where. But this approach also allows start-ups to quickly iterate and optimize their prototypes at relatively low cost. As new products are created, printers only need a software update to be able to print them. So ranges could develop quickly over time. There’s even some talk of butchers or manufacturers designing their own in future.

What’s driving the trend?

Consumers are more health conscious than ever before. For many of us, eating a greasy burger no longer feels consistent with our values. But of course, our love of indulgence and obsession with protein has us seeking viable alternatives. So plant-based meats that are free from cholesterol seem a much better fit – especially high-end products that offer experience-hungry millennials something new and exciting to try.

Then there’s the growing number of consumers whose decisions are driven by the ecological impacts of meat. In fact, studies show that a concern for the environment is now the second most frequently given reason for cutting meat out of our diets. While more and more people are identifying as vegans and vegetarians, it’s the growing army of flexitarians who are truly driving this trend. Studies now claim that somewhere between 1 in 3 and 1 in 5 of all consumers would place themselves in this category.  

What’s being printed – and what are the challenges?

Eager to distinguish themselves from the well-established burger market, most 3D meat printing start-ups have focused on recreating the high-end meat experience. So steaks – the holy grail of plant-based meat - have naturally been a popular choice. But many companies have already been developing designs for other cuts of meat - from pork, lamb and chicken thighs to salmon, tuna and seafood.

But recreating high-end meat is no easy feat. Given that steaks tend to be featured centre stage of a meal, consumers don’t only expect the taste and mouthfeel to be spot on. Their appearance needs to be similarly droolworthy. One of the first prototypes unveiled at the Mobile World Congress in 2018 left critics claiming it looked more like a pancake than a sirloin. But this year, the latest prototype was already looking a lot more steak-like. Good news for consumers, who also want to eat with their eyes.

Meat the contenders: Nova Meat and Redefine Meat

In 2018, Giuseppe Scionti created the world’s first 3D printed meat, almost by accident. For ten years he’d been working on creating bioengineered animal tissues. But one day he happened to create some tissue that was surprisingly similar to animal tissue. Now founder and CEO of Nova Meat, he’s developed a “Nespresso for meat substitutes”. So far, Giuseppe has been working with culinary experts to perfect their “Steak 2.0”. But this month his company released its latest development - 3D printed pork – and apparently fish prototypes are also in the pipeline. The company now plans to start selling steaks to restaurants by the end of this year. But their long-term aim is to license out their 3D printing technology to plant-based meat manufacturers – a development that might be accelerated due to COVID-19 causing chaos in the food service sector.

Eshchar Ben-Shitrit grew up a meat connoisseur, learning how to cook the perfect steak in his uncle’s restaurant. But this all changed when he became a father. Suddenly, he could no longer stomach the idea of eating an animal’s child. So in 2018 he quit his job and founded Redefine Meat – determined to find a way to reconcile his love of meat with a more sustainable and ethical future. By 2019, his fledgling team had closed a $6 million seed round to finalize the development of their proprietary alternative meat 3D printer. In addition to trailing products in the Swiss, French and German markets later this year, the Redefine Meat team also plans to sell their machines and ingredient packs to meat processing partners, allowing them to print their own products to sell on to retailers and restaurants.

Shooting for the moon

So will 3D meat printing truly take off? Experts think it’s not a question of if, but when. They see 3D printers becoming a standard addition to restaurants and homes in the not so distant future. Others see potential for scalable 3D meat printing solutions to ensure that consumers across the world - regardless of their budgets – can benefit from high quality protein.

And, for some ambitious companies, even world domination isn’t enough. Israeli company, Aleph Farms, recently teamed up with Russian bioprinter developers to successfully print meat in space.

But ultimately, when it comes to successful food products, taste will always be king. The company that manages to create a steak that’s just as mouth-wateringly juicy as the real thing may just be able to carve off a significant slice of the faux meat market from their burger-making competitors.

Business opportunities

  • Looking to tempt in plant-loving, novelty-hungry customers post corona? Try partnering with start-ups to be one of the first restaurants to offer your customers 3D printed steaks.  
  • 3D printing isn’t just limited to meat. Tests have shown that it can be used in a wide range of applications – from cookie dough to ice cream and marzipan. Connect with 3D printing start-ups to see how the latest developments could transform your production methods.

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  • Read Unlimited Articles
  • Access Member Directory
  • Join a Global Community
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It’s Saturday morning. You roll out of bed and head over to the kitchen. Your coffee machine pours you an espresso, which you sip slowly while your 3D printer prints out a juicy breakfast steak.

Does this scenario seem a bit far-fetched? It may just be closer than you think. From Burger King’s Impossible Whopper and McDonald’s Big Vegan to Greggs iconic vegan sausage roll, alternative meat has finally gone mainstream. In fact, a report published last year predicted that by 2040, 60% of the meat we eat will not have come from slaughtered animals.

This has left manufacturers, retailers and restaurants alike eager to explore a wider range of product innovations, with an even more convincing taste and mouthfeel and scalable production methods that can bring down prices. And this is the gap in a highly lucrative market that many 3D meat printing start-ups are rushing to fill – and attracting significant investment along the way.

So let’s get our heads around how 3D printing works and how it can help food system actors meat - pun intended - rapidly growing demand.

So how do you print meat?

3D printers squeeze ingredients out of a nozzle and build up the product in layers to imitate muscle fibres, aiming to create products that taste and feel like the real deal. The ingredients come in a cartridge and can either be plant-based – like peas, rice and algae – or made from animal cells grown in a lab.

Of course, printers need to follow instructions and each steak needs to be designed - from the shape of the cut to which ingredients should be distributed where. But this approach also allows start-ups to quickly iterate and optimize their prototypes at relatively low cost. As new products are created, printers only need a software update to be able to print them. So ranges could develop quickly over time. There’s even some talk of butchers or manufacturers designing their own in future.

What’s driving the trend?

Consumers are more health conscious than ever before. For many of us, eating a greasy burger no longer feels consistent with our values. But of course, our love of indulgence and obsession with protein has us seeking viable alternatives. So plant-based meats that are free from cholesterol seem a much better fit – especially high-end products that offer experience-hungry millennials something new and exciting to try.

Then there’s the growing number of consumers whose decisions are driven by the ecological impacts of meat. In fact, studies show that a concern for the environment is now the second most frequently given reason for cutting meat out of our diets. While more and more people are identifying as vegans and vegetarians, it’s the growing army of flexitarians who are truly driving this trend. Studies now claim that somewhere between 1 in 3 and 1 in 5 of all consumers would place themselves in this category.  

What’s being printed – and what are the challenges?

Eager to distinguish themselves from the well-established burger market, most 3D meat printing start-ups have focused on recreating the high-end meat experience. So steaks – the holy grail of plant-based meat - have naturally been a popular choice. But many companies have already been developing designs for other cuts of meat - from pork, lamb and chicken thighs to salmon, tuna and seafood.

But recreating high-end meat is no easy feat. Given that steaks tend to be featured centre stage of a meal, consumers don’t only expect the taste and mouthfeel to be spot on. Their appearance needs to be similarly droolworthy. One of the first prototypes unveiled at the Mobile World Congress in 2018 left critics claiming it looked more like a pancake than a sirloin. But this year, the latest prototype was already looking a lot more steak-like. Good news for consumers, who also want to eat with their eyes.

Meat the contenders: Nova Meat and Redefine Meat

In 2018, Giuseppe Scionti created the world’s first 3D printed meat, almost by accident. For ten years he’d been working on creating bioengineered animal tissues. But one day he happened to create some tissue that was surprisingly similar to animal tissue. Now founder and CEO of Nova Meat, he’s developed a “Nespresso for meat substitutes”. So far, Giuseppe has been working with culinary experts to perfect their “Steak 2.0”. But this month his company released its latest development - 3D printed pork – and apparently fish prototypes are also in the pipeline. The company now plans to start selling steaks to restaurants by the end of this year. But their long-term aim is to license out their 3D printing technology to plant-based meat manufacturers – a development that might be accelerated due to COVID-19 causing chaos in the food service sector.

Eshchar Ben-Shitrit grew up a meat connoisseur, learning how to cook the perfect steak in his uncle’s restaurant. But this all changed when he became a father. Suddenly, he could no longer stomach the idea of eating an animal’s child. So in 2018 he quit his job and founded Redefine Meat – determined to find a way to reconcile his love of meat with a more sustainable and ethical future. By 2019, his fledgling team had closed a $6 million seed round to finalize the development of their proprietary alternative meat 3D printer. In addition to trailing products in the Swiss, French and German markets later this year, the Redefine Meat team also plans to sell their machines and ingredient packs to meat processing partners, allowing them to print their own products to sell on to retailers and restaurants.

Shooting for the moon

So will 3D meat printing truly take off? Experts think it’s not a question of if, but when. They see 3D printers becoming a standard addition to restaurants and homes in the not so distant future. Others see potential for scalable 3D meat printing solutions to ensure that consumers across the world - regardless of their budgets – can benefit from high quality protein.

And, for some ambitious companies, even world domination isn’t enough. Israeli company, Aleph Farms, recently teamed up with Russian bioprinter developers to successfully print meat in space.

But ultimately, when it comes to successful food products, taste will always be king. The company that manages to create a steak that’s just as mouth-wateringly juicy as the real thing may just be able to carve off a significant slice of the faux meat market from their burger-making competitors.

Business opportunities

  • Looking to tempt in plant-loving, novelty-hungry customers post corona? Try partnering with start-ups to be one of the first restaurants to offer your customers 3D printed steaks.  
  • 3D printing isn’t just limited to meat. Tests have shown that it can be used in a wide range of applications – from cookie dough to ice cream and marzipan. Connect with 3D printing start-ups to see how the latest developments could transform your production methods.

It’s Saturday morning. You roll out of bed and head over to the kitchen. Your coffee machine pours you an espresso, which you sip slowly while your 3D printer prints out a juicy breakfast steak.

Does this scenario seem a bit far-fetched? It may just be closer than you think. From Burger King’s Impossible Whopper and McDonald’s Big Vegan to Greggs iconic vegan sausage roll, alternative meat has finally gone mainstream. In fact, a report published last year predicted that by 2040, 60% of the meat we eat will not have come from slaughtered animals.

This has left manufacturers, retailers and restaurants alike eager to explore a wider range of product innovations, with an even more convincing taste and mouthfeel and scalable production methods that can bring down prices. And this is the gap in a highly lucrative market that many 3D meat printing start-ups are rushing to fill – and attracting significant investment along the way.

So let’s get our heads around how 3D printing works and how it can help food system actors meat - pun intended - rapidly growing demand.

So how do you print meat?

3D printers squeeze ingredients out of a nozzle and build up the product in layers to imitate muscle fibres, aiming to create products that taste and feel like the real deal. The ingredients come in a cartridge and can either be plant-based – like peas, rice and algae – or made from animal cells grown in a lab.

Of course, printers need to follow instructions and each steak needs to be designed - from the shape of the cut to which ingredients should be distributed where. But this approach also allows start-ups to quickly iterate and optimize their prototypes at relatively low cost. As new products are created, printers only need a software update to be able to print them. So ranges could develop quickly over time. There’s even some talk of butchers or manufacturers designing their own in future.

What’s driving the trend?

Consumers are more health conscious than ever before. For many of us, eating a greasy burger no longer feels consistent with our values. But of course, our love of indulgence and obsession with protein has us seeking viable alternatives. So plant-based meats that are free from cholesterol seem a much better fit – especially high-end products that offer experience-hungry millennials something new and exciting to try.

Then there’s the growing number of consumers whose decisions are driven by the ecological impacts of meat. In fact, studies show that a concern for the environment is now the second most frequently given reason for cutting meat out of our diets. While more and more people are identifying as vegans and vegetarians, it’s the growing army of flexitarians who are truly driving this trend. Studies now claim that somewhere between 1 in 3 and 1 in 5 of all consumers would place themselves in this category.  

What’s being printed – and what are the challenges?

Eager to distinguish themselves from the well-established burger market, most 3D meat printing start-ups have focused on recreating the high-end meat experience. So steaks – the holy grail of plant-based meat - have naturally been a popular choice. But many companies have already been developing designs for other cuts of meat - from pork, lamb and chicken thighs to salmon, tuna and seafood.

But recreating high-end meat is no easy feat. Given that steaks tend to be featured centre stage of a meal, consumers don’t only expect the taste and mouthfeel to be spot on. Their appearance needs to be similarly droolworthy. One of the first prototypes unveiled at the Mobile World Congress in 2018 left critics claiming it looked more like a pancake than a sirloin. But this year, the latest prototype was already looking a lot more steak-like. Good news for consumers, who also want to eat with their eyes.

Meat the contenders: Nova Meat and Redefine Meat

In 2018, Giuseppe Scionti created the world’s first 3D printed meat, almost by accident. For ten years he’d been working on creating bioengineered animal tissues. But one day he happened to create some tissue that was surprisingly similar to animal tissue. Now founder and CEO of Nova Meat, he’s developed a “Nespresso for meat substitutes”. So far, Giuseppe has been working with culinary experts to perfect their “Steak 2.0”. But this month his company released its latest development - 3D printed pork – and apparently fish prototypes are also in the pipeline. The company now plans to start selling steaks to restaurants by the end of this year. But their long-term aim is to license out their 3D printing technology to plant-based meat manufacturers – a development that might be accelerated due to COVID-19 causing chaos in the food service sector.

Eshchar Ben-Shitrit grew up a meat connoisseur, learning how to cook the perfect steak in his uncle’s restaurant. But this all changed when he became a father. Suddenly, he could no longer stomach the idea of eating an animal’s child. So in 2018 he quit his job and founded Redefine Meat – determined to find a way to reconcile his love of meat with a more sustainable and ethical future. By 2019, his fledgling team had closed a $6 million seed round to finalize the development of their proprietary alternative meat 3D printer. In addition to trailing products in the Swiss, French and German markets later this year, the Redefine Meat team also plans to sell their machines and ingredient packs to meat processing partners, allowing them to print their own products to sell on to retailers and restaurants.

Shooting for the moon

So will 3D meat printing truly take off? Experts think it’s not a question of if, but when. They see 3D printers becoming a standard addition to restaurants and homes in the not so distant future. Others see potential for scalable 3D meat printing solutions to ensure that consumers across the world - regardless of their budgets – can benefit from high quality protein.

And, for some ambitious companies, even world domination isn’t enough. Israeli company, Aleph Farms, recently teamed up with Russian bioprinter developers to successfully print meat in space.

But ultimately, when it comes to successful food products, taste will always be king. The company that manages to create a steak that’s just as mouth-wateringly juicy as the real thing may just be able to carve off a significant slice of the faux meat market from their burger-making competitors.

Business opportunities

  • Looking to tempt in plant-loving, novelty-hungry customers post corona? Try partnering with start-ups to be one of the first restaurants to offer your customers 3D printed steaks.  
  • 3D printing isn’t just limited to meat. Tests have shown that it can be used in a wide range of applications – from cookie dough to ice cream and marzipan. Connect with 3D printing start-ups to see how the latest developments could transform your production methods.

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