The application of 3D printing in food is well-known. However, what has gathered more attention is the use of 3D printing technology to manufacture animal-free meat. The 3D printed meat and seafood industry is not only seeing a lot of activity in terms of innovation but also witnessing an increase in investments, new partnerships, new product launches and introduction of bioprinters and many more.
To learn more about the current state about the 3D printed meat and seafood market, and how 3D printed meat may redefine the traditional meat industry, Abhimanyu Chavan, Director at Manufactur3D Magazine recently caught up with experts within the 3D printed meat industry – Robin Simsa, CEO of Legendary Vish and Eshchar Ben-Shitrit, CEO of Redefine Meat.
Manufactur3D (M3D): What is the status of your 3D printed meat? When will it hit the markets?
Robin Simsa (RS): We believe the time is perfect right now. But to bring 3D printed meat and seafood to the market, there are two major challenges; the first one mainly concerns the volume of production today that is upscaling the 3D printing production facilities to compete with the high volumes produced with traditional food processing machines.
The second challenge is related to regulations: how to ensure that our 3D printed salmon meets food standards? 3D printed meat is fairly new and so many standards and certifications are yet to be defined. We will have to be patient since the first products will not be available until 2022.
Eshchar Ben-Shitrit (EB-S): Working with our partners, our alt-meat products are set to hit select high-end restaurants later this year – initially in Israel, Germany, and Switzerland. Upon successful market-testing, we will scale up globally and start shipping our industrial-grade 3D printers to major worldwide meat distributors and other food service players early next year. We are in talks with retailers, but supermarkets and food stores will come after this first phase.
M3D: Do you think the time for 3D printed meat has arrived?
RS: We believe that 3D printed meat and seafood perfectly fits for the time right now, as consumers are increasingly asking for high value plant-based meats, including steaks and fillets, which cannot be produced with more traditional production methods. In the upcoming years, we see a lot of innovation in this field.
EB-S: We believe it has – in any industry where 3D printing already plays a role it is first and foremost a fast prototyping tool, and 3D printed meat is no exception. In the early days, we used our unique approach to 3D printing meat to test how changes in the meat’s composition using digital accuracy and control improve the texture, colour, flavour and cooking behaviour of our Alt-Meat products. We can still iterate, improve and learn faster than any food company that doesn’t have such digital capabilities. However, the holy grail of 3D printing in any industry is creating a final product that no other technology can. That is where you move from rapid prototyping into advanced manufacturing and that is the real reason to use 3D printing for meat.
M3D: Right now, there seems to be a buzz around the 3D printed meat segment with news, publicity and considerable investments. While the investors & environmentalists seem excited, do you feel the general public is equally excited to shift their habits from eating regular meat to 3d printed meat? How do you overcome this major challenge of changing people’s habits to a new form of plant-based meat?
RS: Right now, 3D food printing may seem unusual to some consumers, however we plan to inform consumers with maximum transparency about the processes which are taking place in the 3D Printer. At the end, the production method is not that different from other methods which have already existed for over 50 years, and the final product is not that different from a plant-based hamburger in terms of ingredients and texture. 3D Food Printing however gives us complete control over the structure and texture of the final products, which is the biggest difference to more traditional production methods.
EB-S: For many, eating meat on a regular basis is ingrained in their lives, so even the smallest dietary shift may seem like a big ask. But ultimately we believe, thanks to the tastiness and similarities to a regular steak, those who try our 3D printed Alt-Steak will be convinced. Over the past few years in the lead up to the launch, we have consistently been consulting with chefs, letting them test and cook the steak, in order to perfect not just the taste but also the texture.
Recently we hosted renowned Chef Assaf Granit during The Great Big Jewish Food Festival, and he said that eight out of ten people wouldn’t know the difference between real meat and our steak, and that the flavour of one of his recipes made with the Redefine Meat product was “almost identical” to the original. Of course, we will continue listening to the feedback from fine-dining chefs, who will work and experiment with the steak in their dishes, as well as that from hardcore meat chefs and butchers, who look solely at the meat’s quality. We need both, as their feedback, creativity and styles are different, so that we can learn and improve from both perspectives.
M3D: What future do you envisage for the 3D printed meat market? Will it be a premium food or you see it as a complete replacement of traditional meat?
RS: We believe that 3D Food Printing may shift from an expensive and exclusive tool to a home application kitchen device. Especially the development of 4D Printing, which combines cooking into the process, is an interesting new application that may transform the way we prepare food at our homes.
EB-S: 100 years from now our great grandkids will find it shocking that we needed to raise and kill animals for food. We are certain of that, but since 100 years in technology is a long, long time, it’s impossible to predict how food will look like then (and will we eat it on earth or Mars!). However, we believe that in the next 20 years will see a massive shift towards replacing animals in the food supply chain. It will happen in eggs, dairy and meat, but the biggest problem is no doubt meat.
The environmental impact we can achieve with meat reduction, especially beef, can be more dramatic in small-scale compared to a massive shift in eggs and dairy. The only way to accelerate this and make alt-meat meaningful (i.e. 10% moving away from meat in the next 5 years to 50% in the next 30 years) – are new technologies. Humanity has exhausted the potential of new recipes and new branding – we need something more drastic. Redefine Meat is working on a completely new approach, helping the industry to find better solutions. The future is exciting – over the coming few years, innovative ingredients will be developed for 3D printed meat and then our products will only become even more tasty, healthier and better for the environment.
Alt-Meat should be more affordable than meat, not just better for people. There are two ways to achieve that. Firstly, compete with more expensive meat cuts. Our process costs the same to create a tenderloin and a brisket meat product, whereas via a cow there is a significant price difference between those two. In the steaks, roast and stew category, we are head-to-head with a much more expensive benchmark, which allows us to be ‘expensive’ and still competitive.
The second way is scale – the meat industry is a multi-trillion dollar business and has already leveraged every economies of scale advantage you can imagine. We (Redefine Meat and the Alt-Meat industry) are just getting started. At the very basis, Alt-Meat companies offers an efficient production process – converting plants directly into meat – while also offering more economic value than the traditional way i.e. wasting inputs to feed animals. This is true even when you put new 3D printers such as ours in the middle of them both.
About Legendary Vish: This Austrian Startup was founded with a mission to offer plant-based alternative to traditional seafood while keeping the taste and freshness. It enables such a healthy and sustainable seafood through 3D printing technology.
About Redefine Meat: Israel-based Redefine Meat is driven by their love of meat, compassion for animals, and concern about the planet to dramatically transform the conventional meat and food industries. Redefine Meat technology produces animal-free meat with the same appearance, texture and flavor of animal meat, from natural and sustainable ingredients.