Meat is part of the diet of most people. However, due to population growth and environmental pressures, traditional production methods are likely to fail. Researchers at the University of Tokyo report an innovative method for biofabrication of bovine muscle tissue in a laboratory. It will meet the growing future demand for dietary meats.
With global urbanization, the livestock economy is becoming less resilient. From an environmental point of view, land and water costs in modern large-scale livestock production are untenable, and greenhouse gas emissions – methane – threaten the planet. In addition, there are ethical concerns about human use of animals for food.
To meet future needs, scientists are cultivating artificial meat in several centers around the world. However, most biosynthetic meat products are amorphous or granular minced meat that lacks the grain and texture of real animal meat. Mai Furuhashi, lead author of the new study published in the journal Science of Food, explained the process behind their creation.
Using techniques developed for regenerative medicine, we have been able to cultivate millimeter-sized cuts of meat in which the alignment of the muscle tubes helps mimic the texture and mouthfeel of a steak. For this, myoblasts obtained from commercial beef were cultured in hydrogel modules. They could be stacked on top of each other, which leads to the fusion of molecules into larger pieces. We have identified optimal scaffolding and electrical stimulation to improve contractility and anatomical alignment of muscle tissue. This is the best way to simulate a steak.
Mai Furuhashi, lead author of the new study
“Our morphological, functional and nutritional analyzes have shown cultured muscle tissue to be a reliable steak substitute. Breaking force measurements showed that the strength over time approached the strength of natural beef. Notably, no microbial contamination was found; it affects purity, consumer acceptability and shelf life, ”another study author, Yuya Morimoto, describes the synthesized product.
The new method paves the way for the further development of larger portions of realistic cultured meats that can complement or replace animal sources. However, the authors note that there is a long way to go before lab-grown meat becomes indistinguishable from the real thing. In addition, barriers to consumer acceptance of a new product need to be overcome.