- Israeli startup Redefine Meat is racing to develop a 3D-printed steak that can rival the taste and texture of real meat.
- Steak is one aspect of the rapidly growing alternative meat industry that is yet to hit the mainstream.
- The global alternative meat market is projected to reach a value of $8.1 billion by 2026.
- View more episodes of Business Insider Today on Facebook.
It may look like Play-Doh. But it's actually a 3D-printed steak.
It's made by the Israeli alternative meat startup Redefine Meat, and the technology behind it is one of many contenders in today's sizzling hot, international race to capitalize on the growing faux-meat market.
Redefine Meat isn't focusing on alternatives to ground beef or sausages, but whole-cut steaks — an area of the market that has yet to hit the mainstream.
"There is an amazing industry of alternative meat that is focused on minced meat. And actually the meat industry is driven by the whole muscle cuts," CEO Eshchar Ben-Shitrit told Reuters. "Steaks, roast, slow-cooking, grilling — everything that an animal can do we want to do the same or even better."
Ben-Shitrit is focused on creating industrial-level 3D printers that would ultimately be sold to meat distributors around the globe and become part of the meat supply chain.
"The idea is to replace a cow. So each of our machines produce in a day exactly like a cow, up to 250 [kilograms] in a single day," he said.
Faux meat is believed to be significantly better for the environment, requiring less water and energy and releasing fewer fossil fuels than livestock — the CEO calls it "the best way to fight climate change, to deliver healthier solutions and food to the entire population of the planet."
At this stage in development, Redefine Meat is not disclosing how much the printers will cost. The plan is to keep the price of their 3D-printed steaks comparable to traditional ones, which can range from $5 to $12 per pound.
The company aims to debut the steaks at high-end restaurants in Israel, Switzerland, and Germany by the end of 2020.
But it will be a while before the printers are part of the meat-industrial complex. Currently the machines only produce up to 13 pounds of meat an hour, and next year, the company plans to release a new generation of machines that will print 44 pounds an hour.
By comparison, American slaughterhouses can collectively process over 100,000 cows a day, each of which yields hundreds of pounds of beef.
In the meat industry, profit margins are greatest on whole-animal cuts, like steaks. The key to those profits is creating a product with the same taste and texture as traditional meat, Redefine Meat food engineer Alexey Tomsov said.
"We analyzed the different components that make those beautiful cuts and and … we identified three main components — the muscle, the blood, and the fat," he said. "These are the components that we need to mimic in order to reach the perfect, beautiful steak."
Redefine Meat's recipe contains soy and pea proteins, coconut fat, and sunflower oil, among other ingredients. Although the full list is secret, the company says all ingredients are plant-based and vegan.
The company has some competition. Israel is a hotspot for alternative meat companies, developing both lab-grown and 3D-printed food. In Spain, the startup Novameat is also working on 3D-printed steaks, and also recently developed a whole-muscle version of pork. Big companies including Tesco and Unilever are developing plant-based meats, too.
Venture capital money is pouring in and the global faux meat market is projected to reach a value of $8.1 billion by 2026, according to Allied Market Research.
They're all racing to convince consumers that a lab-grown product can taste as good as the real thing.
"At the end of the day, technology is important, but what's more interesting is to have a really delicious and tasty food product that you can cut through and have a bite, and be excited," Ben-Shitrit said.
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