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3D-printed plant-based steaks could arrive in 2021

Ann Smajstrla
Contributing Writer
A food technician tests a cooked 3D printed plant-based steak mimicking real beef and produced by Israeli start-up Redefine Meat during a demonstration for Reuters at their facility in Rehovot, Israel June 29, 2020. Picture taken June 29, 2020. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

You could soon be able to enjoy 3D-printed, plant-based flank steak at home. Israeli startup Redefine Meat says that’s what it hopes to accomplish for customers when it launches 3D-printed steak alternatives in 2021. The product will enter a market where plant-based meats, like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, are rising in popularity. While a couple plant-based steaks have previously hit the market, none seem to be widely available as, for example, ground meat or patties. Until now, butcher-style cuts have been less common.

Redefine Meat says that through 3D printing, it’s able to create plant-based meat with the same “appearance, texture and flavor of animal meat,” according to its website. Texture specifically seems to be the 3D printer’s hallmark achievement. “You need a 3D printer to mimic the structure of the muscle of the animal,” Redefine Meat CEO Eshchar Ben-Shitrit told Reuters.

3D printing differs from other methods companies have used for reproducing meat taste and texture. Both Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat use combinations of plant-based proteins, oils and binders, like methylcellulose and potato starch, to achieve a realistic texture for their ground beef and patties -- though the texture of ground beef is arguably easier to achieve than that of steak. Atlast Food uses mushroom fibers to emulate animal tissue in its meatless bacon.

Whether it be for health, environmental or ethical reasons, consumers are buying more meat alternatives. Last year, market analysts at Barclays estimated the global market for meat substitutes could reach $140 billion by 2029, according to a June 2019 article from the research firm Statista. Recent data seems to support that trend, as Forbes reported in early May that alternative meat sales grew since the start of the pandemic.

Redefine Meat isn’t the only company attempting 3D-printed meat alternatives. Spanish company NovaMeat is working on 3D-printed steak and pork substitutes. NovaMeat CEO Giuseppe Scionti told Reuters his company’s product will be available “in selected top restaurants” in Europe this year, and will have a wider release in 2021.