Rice containing beef cells could make a sustainable meal


Rice and beef, together at last

Yonsei University

It is the ultimate fusion food: soon you could sit down to a meal of rice and beef where the two key ingredients are melded together in a lab-made hybrid form.

Many research groups and companies are developing meat products grown from cells in the lab, which aim to address issues including the huge environmental impact of livestock farming.

Instead of coaxing animal cells to grow into large structures replicating the texture of meat – which has proven to be challenging – Jinkee Hong from Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, and his colleagues wanted to fuse rice grains and cultured animal cells to create a “new complete meal”.

They first coated rice grains with fish gelatin so that cow muscle cells could stick to them, then allowed the cells to grow throughout the rice grains for about five to seven days. Next, the rice was placed in a medium that encouraged the cow cells to multiply inside the grains.

The resulting beef-rice hybrid can be boiled or steamed just like normal rice. Hong says its texture is harder, more brittle and less sticky than regular rice, and it has a nutty taste.

“It’s not beef-like in the traditional sense, but offers a new gastronomic experience that combines the familiarity of rice with the richness of meaty umami flavours,” he says.

The researchers found that the hybrid rice contains 7 per cent more protein and 8 per cent more fat than ordinary rice. They estimate that producing it releases around 6 kilograms of carbon dioxide for every 100 grams of protein, while beef releases about 50 kg.

Unlike other kinds of cultured meat, says Hong, the ingredients used in producing the beef-rice are all well-known and inexpensive, with high nutritional value. In addition, no genetic modification is involved in the process.

“These advantages… offer a way to produce meat in a more sustainable manner, reducing the environmental footprint associated with traditional livestock farming and offering a novel food source that could help meet the growing global demand for protein,” says Hong.

“It has a chance to not just be a nice gimmick, but also very useful,” says Johannes le Coutre at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. “It’s just a matter of being able to scale these products. The challenge will be getting the meat cells growing on rice at a large scale.”

Topics:

Related Posts