Will you be eating 3D printed meat in the future?

3d printed meatSo this video is kind of old, but it demonstrates well the truth of something that people don’t quite believe when I tell them, so it seems it bears repeating: yes, we’ll be eating printed meat in the not-too-distant future. Watching Gabor Forgacs eat pork that was grown in lab petri dishes may be a bit off putting for some, and might be especially disconcerting considering that the company he was speaking for, Organovo, has this displayed on their homepage: “We design and create functional human tissues using three-dimensional bioprinting technology. 100% human. Architecturally correct.” Equally disturbing imagery of Soylent Green and Resident Evil come to mind.

Thankfully Forgacs had the sense to co-found Modern Meadow, which has a much more fitting homepage up for the task of printing edible meat: “Modern Meadow applies the latest advances in tissue engineering to develop novel biomaterials to address some of our most pressing global challenges. We develop cultured leather and meat products which require no animal slaughter and much lower inputs of land, water, energy and chemicals.” Really, there’s not much to say beyond that. Land, water, and energy are very valuable and limiting commodities, so it’s important that we as humans seek efficiency and fairness in their allocation, regardless of how we feel about animal cruelty/rights.

If you’re worried about flavor, it’s probably not going to be a great obstacle. Much of what affects flavor of meat is how the animal was raised; exercise is necessary for muscle growth, but that can be simulated with electric currents in a lab, and amino acids could probably easily be incorporated into the final print for natural salt flavor. I think texture will be harder to get just right, but processed meats are already so common in western diets, so I don’t think people will be too terribly concerned that printed meat may be a little more tender than normal.

I’m ready for the resources that are currently dedicated to mass cattle raising to be reallocated to more efficient methods of nutrient creation. Some of those resources should and will go to printing home-based food gardens, but bioprinting is an important research field for global nutrition too, and it may taste better.