3D printed meat is coming to the USA

Fountainpencreator

It seems like a sci-fi movie, but it is a reality. 3D printed, plant-based meat is the principal product of the Israeli-based Redefine Meat. Thanks to a financing round led by Happiness Capital, Hanaco Ventures, CPT Capital and other international investors, the company has accrued $29 millions. These funds will be soon used to move forward with plans of launching the plant-based meat alternatives to international markets in Europe, Asia and North America. In total, Redefine Meat has now raised $38 millions.

If you’re like me, thinking of using 3D printing to produce meat causes some weird reactions and at first a denying of it even being possible. It indeed sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie with experimenting on alien forms of life. Only, this is reality.

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Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels

Not only “printing meat” though: Redefine Meat steaks are plant-based as well, fully vegan and 100% meat-free. One can only wonder how similar to real meat this is. For that, we will have to wait for the mass production to start and be distributed to local dealers.

How Redefine Meat is made

The objective of Redefine Meat technologies is to recreate the same appearance, texture and flavor of animal meat but with natural and more sustainable ingredients. It is meant to be an exact replica of what you would normally taste with a cows’ milk bought at your nearest supermarket.

In this, they are not much different from many other companies that have launched plant-based meat alternatives of late. The list of meats that are fully vegan available grows week after week, but a good idea of what is already available can be had from this list.

So, what makes Redefine Meat different? 3D printing. Basically, thanks to the use of modeling and food printing technologies, the mix of ingredients that is prepared to resemble in all aspects the real meat is also physically placed together and shaped to be identical to meat. It is not just a long list of components that are then minced and “assembled” to look like a steak or minced meat, but the 3D printing technology puts them together in a replica of what a slice of good meat would look and feel like. Redefine Meat has implemented a technology using a matrix that can produce visually identical meat to the real thing, in a cost effective and scalable way. The recent funding round was what they needed to scale the production for the masses.

Thus, the challenge posed by Redefine Meat to its competitors isn’t just about the taste profile and flavors contained in their plant-based meat alternatives, but in actually shaping it to be indistinguishable from animal meat altogether. The company claims that in a blind tasting of over 600 of regular meat-eaters tasted their 3D printed meat alongside natural meat: 90% of the participants expressed satisfaction with Redefine Meat’s products. Overall 1000 servings of meat over two days were distributed from a food truck in the suburbs of Tel Aviv, selling it all in less than five hours. The curious aspect of this experiment is that Redefine Meat themselves expected about 100 people to come to the blind tasting but, by word of mouth mostly, around 600 did. The interest in trying new types of meat is evidently great.

Whether their technology is capable of making plant-based meat accepted by meat lovers and the hospitality industry as well remains to be seen on a global scale. Redefine Meat is aware that to convince regular meat consumers to prove and switch to their meat alternative time and a general appreciation of it from some experts in the industry will be needed. The Israeli-based company aims to achieve this by winning regulatory approval in other countries outside of Israel and Singapore, the only ones so far that they have green-lighted the alternative meat for consumption, and to get a foot into the restaurant industry. In Israel this is already happening, with Best Meister, one of the largest local distributors of food, accepting to include their meat alternative into their distribution channels.

If more restaurant owners will accept the new product and include it in their menus, that is going to mean it will be in direct competition with traditional meat chefs, and in the availability of the general consumer, who may then compare the taste by ordering it alongside the classic steak they used to have so far. A larger, blind tasting of sorts.

The market is ready for more plant-based products

As recently shown by a Market Analysis Report, the expected growth of meat alternative products is 19.4% from 2020 to 2027. North America leads this growth and the market overall, with 39% of global revenues in 2019 coming from the USA, Mexico and Canada alone. Moreover, about 57% of the global consumption of plant-based meat is in hotels, restaurants and cafes, versus only 43% of retail. From these two data alone we can see how the objectives of Redefine Meat to expand into North America and to restaurants first are in line with where the market is going.

The main issue with these objectives will be meat-lovers’ acceptance of the product. The Israeli company is already aware of this major difficulty and is indeed aiming all their marketing efforts at alluring meat consumers that are aware of the environmental and ethical consequences of their beloved food but aren’t willing to give it up altogether just yet. An alternative that not only tastes and smells extremely close to the real thing but also looks like it is more intriguing to this category of consumers than others, less accurately similar meat alternatives. Vegans aren’t thus the main potential buyers of Redefine Meat’s meat alternative, but only coincidentally so.

People who want to be more sustainable for the Earth and avoid some of the risks for the health involved with high consumption of red meat, can partially switch to the 3D printed meat alternative that soon will be available in most major markets. If what Redefine Meat is trying to achieve will be even moderately closely reached, a good chunk of these consumers will turn for their “semi-meat” fix to them, and probably them only.

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