We can already use a process called bioprinting to create organic tissue — now, a start-up is applying the process to making artificial meat.
If we can have 3D-printed organs for medical purposes, why not a 3D-printed burger?
Would you eat a 3D-printed burger?
A company called Modern Meadow in the US is trialling just that. According to its website, there are numerous problems with meat production: the greenhouse gases created by livestock, the land and resources required, the wastage in meat production and the increasing population. By 2050, Modern Meadow asserts, 70 per cent more meat will be required to feed the world.
To address these issues, the company is using a process called bioprinting to experiment with lab-created meat.
Using live stem cells taken from animals, Modern Meadow creates a substance it calls "bioink" (it's a portmanteau of "bio" and "ink", but we initially read an "oink" in there). These living cells are then printed into agarose moulds.
After a few days, the bioink has fused enough to hold a shape; this living piece of tissue can then be placed into a bioreactor, where muscle growth is stimulated using a low-frequency current.
Eventually, the tissue will be killed off so it can be used as meat.
At the moment, it's a pretty expensive process — but one that Modern Meadow hopes will revolutionise food production in the years ahead. According to its website, the benefits of bio-engineering meat include:
99 per cent less land required
96 per cent less water consumed
96 per cent fewer greenhouse gases emitted
45 per cent less energy needed
No risk of livestock diseases
No animals harmed.
Sounds much more animal and environmentally friendly than the spherical cow.