We’ve written previously here at Pixel Lounge about the ever evolving possibilities of 3D printing within the food industry; a pizza in space, chocolate printing and now thanks to a pair of students at the University of Applied Sciences Schwäbisch Gmünd, 3D printed meat could be on the table!
Sarah Mautsch and Aaron Abentheuer are design students who have come up with a conceptual prototype 3D printer called the ‘Cultivator’. Their intention is to fuel the discussion on the viability of bioprinting and the possibility of it being an everyday method of food production. Although currently a concept, Abentheuer believes a Cultivator could be a regular feature in the kitchens of the future, saying “considering this technology exists today (although it is very expensive), one can imagine that technology will evolve, get cheaper and smaller to produce, so something like Cultivator can definitely exist in 10 to 30 years time”.
Currently bioprinting technology is mostly being used for 3D printing artificial organs for transplants and experimental use in the medical industry, but it’s principles would be the same when producing meat for consumption. The bioengineering of meat starts with stem cells extracted from the tissue of animals muscles. These cells are then grown under tension to bulk them up, and printed into arbitrary shapes using an advanced 3D printer. This process creates an interesting debate; as no animal is killed during the extraction of the tissue needed to produce 3D printed meat, is this meat suitable for vegetarians?
As well as the moral benefit of negating the need for battery and factory farming animals, the Cultivators use would have great benefits for the environment. The ability to be able to create meat at home will decrease the need for livestock farming, which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cattle, water consumption and free up land space currently used within the industry. According to the designers the Cultivator will also be powered by a solar panel, enabling the machine to be self sufficient in bright kitchens, and in the absence of daylight can be plugged into a house’s electricity supply.
Another perk of the device would be the ability to produce meat adapted to users dietary wants and requirements; reducing fat content and increasing muscle content will be as easy as changing a setting, effectively allowing you to ‘design’ your own dinner. More control on what you eat will be great for healthy eaters or for use with the latest diet. Although this concept only allows the user to create arbitrary shapes, I’m sure future iterations of the machine will aim to create more realistic looking meat for those who still want their meat as close to the real thing as possible.
Getting the meat produced tasting like the real thing is going to be a challenge and I can imagine a few experiments will be needed before you create your own ‘perfect’ steak cube.
My tip: Seasoning is key.