South Korea: It may look like pink jelly but scientists hope this new invention will revolutionize the meat industry


Would you like your burger medium rare, well done, or lab-grown?

Researchers in South Korea They say they have developed a new way to make lab grown meat It tastes like real meat. It may look like a clear, pink, bubblegum-like disc, but scientists hope it could revolutionize the meat served on people’s plates.

Lab-grown meat — also called cultured meat or cell-based meat — is emerging as an alternative to conventional meat, offering the same nutritional benefits and sensory experience without the carbon footprint.

They are made by growing animal cells directly in the laboratory, grown on three-dimensional structures called “scaffolds,” which allow the cells to multiply, eliminating the need to raise animals on a farm.

Scientists have created everything from cultured meatballs to 3D printed steaks. While some previous versions of cultured beef have mimicked the look and texture of the real thing, according to a new study, they’ve left out a key element: taste.

Jinki Hong/Yonsei University

Scientists have developed a “flavor-switchable scaffold” to mimic the appealing flavor and aroma of grilled meat.

But in a study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, researchers say they’ve solved the mystery, developing cultured meat that produces “roast beef flavors when cooked.”

“Flavor is the most important thing to make cultured meat accepted as real,” study co-author and PhD student in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Yonsei University in Seoul, Milai Lee, told CNN.

To mimic the taste of traditional meat, Lee and her colleagues recreated the flavors produced during the Maillard reaction — a chemical reaction that occurs between an amino acid and a reducing sugar when heat is added, giving burgers that delicious, charred taste.

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They do this by inserting a switchable flavor compound into a gelatin-based hydrogel, forming what’s called a functional scaffold, which Lee describes as “the basic structure of cultured meat.”

Jinki Hong/Yonsei University

The researchers mimicked the taste of traditional meat by recreating the flavours produced during the Maillard reaction, which gives the meat a charred taste.

The flavor compound, which consists of a flavor group and two linking groups, remains in the scaffold until it is heated. It “starts to work” when cooked for five minutes at 150 degrees Celsius (302 degrees Fahrenheit), releasing meaty flavors in a replication of the Maillard reaction, he told me.

Since cultured meat isn’t yet edible, the researchers used an electronic nose that “mimics the human olfactory system,” Lee said, to test the smells of cultured meat and see how it compares to conventional meat.

In this study, the researchers focused on adding “meaty” and “savory” flavors, he told me, but the flavor factor could also be tweaked to include other flavors — like the fat that comes from a juicy rib eye, for example.

The research focused on the science behind the taste of lab-grown meat, not on commercializing the process, which is why the scientists used inedible materials. But they believe the strategy could be applied to traditional edible materials, Lee said.

They also plan to reduce the animal products used in the process, including gelatin-based hydrogel, to work toward producing lab-grown meat that is almost entirely free of animal-derived materials.

Livestock farming is responsible for 6.2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere each year, According to UN dataThis represents about 12% of total emissions from human activities. Beef production is the most carbon intensive.

Cultured meat is being positioned as a climate-friendly alternative to beef, although Some studies Some say its potential environmental impact may be overstated and depends on finding less energy-intensive production methods.

“Lab-grown meat has tremendous potential to contribute to sustainable food systems, but its flavor is likely to be just a small component of how successful it will be,” said Jennifer Jacquet, a professor of environmental science at the University of Miami, who was not involved in the research.

“A lot of whether lab-grown meat becomes accepted or widespread depends on the actions of powerful meat and dairy companies,” she told CNN.

Upside down foods

Upside Foods’ cultured chicken is now available in the US.

There has already been resistance in the United States. In May, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced Ban on the sale of lab-grown meat In the state, in what he said was an effort to protect farmers and ranchers.

“Today, Florida is resisting the global elite’s plan to force the world to eat meat grown in a petri dish or insects to achieve their totalitarian goals,” DeSantis said in a statement at the time.

But elsewhere in the United States, it is possible to get lab-grown chicken, though beef is not yet available.

In 2023, the USDA gave the green light to two companies — Good Meat and Upside Foods — to start selling cultured chicken products, making it the second country after Singapore where consumers can buy these products.

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Companies Their chickens first appeared in upscale restaurants in the United States. last year.

In May, Huber’s Butchery in Singapore became the first retailer to sell cultured meat, a cut of chicken from Good Meat made with just 3% cultured meat. The rest is plant-based. According to the Good Meat website.

Now that the South Korean research team has found a piece of the puzzle to improve the flavor of lab-grown meat, the next challenge is to combine that taste with cultured meat that better mimics the look and texture of the real thing — and a pink gelatinous mass is unlikely to be on the menu.

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