Opportunities of the Appetite: Continued Potential for 3D Printed Meat


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Nataliya A. Gorbunova (V. M. Gorbatov Federal Research Center for Food Systems of Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia) discusses the future of 3D printed fare in the recently published ‘Possibilities of Additive Technologies in the Meat Industry. A Review.’

As the global appetite for both new technology and epicurean pursuits lends fascination to the combination of digital fabrication and the potential for actual meals, researchers have come forth with 3D printed sweets, savory treats, a variety of meal concepts, and even meat alternatives.

In this study, Gorbunova addresses the reality of meat rolling off the 3D printer for public consumption, noting that ‘marketing experts believe the prospects of this industry are extremely high.’ In many cases, all the benefits of 3D printing apply—from greater affordability and speed in production to the potential for making complex geometries that may be much more difficult with conventional manufacturing—or even impossible. More importantly, taste and texture may be improved too.

Along with providing sustenance and nutrition, users may also be enjoying the novelty of such processes, indulging in creativity—as well as focusing on the decreased waste of materials and added sustainability. 3D printing of food may also offer:

  • Added convenience for the user, with improved efficiency in production.
  • Greater interest in using ‘extension of sources’ of non-traditional food like bugs, plant materials, and other by-products.
  • Assistance to elderly patients and others suffering from dysphagia.
  • More options for military meals.
  • Greater variation in textures and combinations of food.
  • Refinements to meat substitutes.

Gorbunova relays the words of Jasper L. Tran and Payne, C.L.R. in previous work:

“To fully raise a cow for meat, you have to feed a cow 20,000 gallons of water and 10,000 pounds of grain in its lifetime. Then there’s the cost of slaughtering, shipping and packaging. Our grandkids will say, that was insane. Instead, imagine the possibility of going to one’s kitchen to have a 3D printer print out a customized burger.”

Sustainability is a serious concern globally, and 3D printing offers that for many industries; however, for food production there is much greater chance of users on every level mastering hardware for such endeavors, also enjoying newfound autonomy as the ‘middleman’ in the form of a manufacturer or grocery store may become unnecessary.

Problems may arise also though, from issues with conventional recipes that may require modification to safety and labeling. The general public may also take some convincing in regards to consuming 3D printed food.

“Several specialists suggest that the wide use of 3D printing does not mean disappearance of the traditional technology. In the real production process, new and traditional technologies should be combined,” states Gorbunova.

Hypothetical food designs for age care homes: (a) sausage, (b) steak ‘recombined meat’, and (c) patty [9]

Extrusion is the most obvious means of 3D printing meat or food easily, with the recommendation for additives and binding agents. Previous research from Lipton et al. (2010) suggested the use of binding materials like transglutaminase (TGase) and bacon fat in turkey met for 3D printing. The result was meat with good taste and texture but a ‘slightly distorted’ shape. Further study showed that textures could be transformed with varying levels of porosity, as well as differences in patterns and recipes. Meats could be fabricated with multi-head printers, and different placement of spices and additives to accommodate ‘mouthfeels’ and flavor.

Multi-material computer-aided design (CAD) model

“Similarly, it is possible to obtain different food designs with modified texture and the appetizing appearance that resemble the original meat product as an alternative to traditional meat products for people with chewing and swallowing difficulties,” stated Gorbunova, offering sausage, steak, and beef patties as an example of meats that can be printed from paste or slurry.

“At present, there are many difficulties from the technical point of view, which prevent mass production of 3D printed meat products. Nowadays, the technology of meat production using a 3D printer is consisted in structuring meat products with various characteristics from basic meat blocks.”

Known as one of the first companies to 3D print meat, Modern Meadows has been working on a process for 3D printing meat with cells taken from animals and then cultivated for growth in the lab—meaning that all the expense in raising up animals and slaughtering them could potentially be eliminated. The New York-based company is also experimenting with the fabrication of artificial leather—made from the origins of animal hide.

“Although studies of 3D food printing have been expanding today, there are still some problems that need to be solved including an increase in print precision and accuracy by regulating a printing speed, nozzle diameter, rheological characteristics of edible ‘ink’ for 3D food printing and other parameters, organization of production of food with certain quality and nutritional characteristics, changes in the consumer attitude to 3D foods and so on,” concludes Gorbunova.

“Studies have been carried out regarding a possibility to print meat materials such as pork and poultry meat. These studies show that addition of different food hydrocolloids into meat paste can ensure modified rheological and mechanical properties due to different binding mechanisms, increasing its suitability for printing and viability after processing. At the same time, there are no data on beef. The results of the studies on recipes to correct rheological and mechanical properties of beef paste are necessary to better understand its printability, as well as 3DP settings and conditions of following processing of printed meat products. As soon as these problems are solved, the wider use of 3D food printing is expected.”

What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts! Join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com.

[Source / Images: ‘Possibilities of Additive Technologies in the Meat Industry. A Review’]

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