Food of the future: Scientists grow beef cells in rice

Scientists have grown beef cells inside grains of rice with the aim of creating cheaper and more eco-friendly food. 

Researchers from South Korea called their lab-grown rice a “nutritious and flavourful hybrid food”.

This experimental food was made by covering traditional rice grains in fish gelatin and seeding them with skeletal muscle and fat stem cells, which were then grown in the laboratory.

After culturing the muscle, fat, and gelatin-smothered rice for nine to 11 days, the grains contained meat and fat throughout, resulting in a product that, according to the researchers, could become a nutritious and flavourful food of our future.

Relief for famine and military rations 

Professor Jinkee Hong, who led the work at Yonsei University in South Korea, cooked and tasted the beef-cultured rice, which he hopes will be a more affordable source of protein than traditional beef, with a much smaller carbon footprint.

Speaking to the media, he said: “When cooked, the rice retains its traditional appearance but carries a unique blend of aromas, including a slight nuttiness and umami, which are characteristic of meat.

“While it does not exactly replicate the taste of beef, it offers a pleasant and novel flavour experience,” he added. “We tried it with various accompaniments, and it pairs well with a range of dishes.

“I didn’t expect the cells to grow so well in the rice. Now I see a world of possibilities for this grain-based hybrid food. It could one day serve as food relief for famine, military ration, or even space food.”

Six times cheaper than beef 

The scientists claim that their hybrid rice has 8% more protein and 7% more fat compared to regular rice.

This product offers a more affordable protein food source with eight times less greenhouse gas emissions compared to beef.

According to the researchers, if their hybrid rice was to be commercialised, it would cost about £1.77 per kg, while beef is six times more expensive.

The beef rice is not yet approved for consumers but is another idea of lab-grown meat and alternative proteins that have been developed with the aim of reducing the climate impact of meat and dairy.

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