Israeli company Aleph Farms is the first to 3D-print a ribeye steak using proprietary bioprinting technology and cultured animal cells. Cuts of the cultivated meat could sell for $50 each, but only after FDA approval.
The Aleph Farms ribeye steak comes closer to a “real” cut of beef than other cultivated meats, thanks to precise 3D bioprinting and a system that mimics vascularization in animals. Nutrients can spread across the cut during this process, granting the steak a familiar shape and texture.
But Aleph Farms isn’t reinventing the wheel. Like other companies, Aleph Farms starts its cultivated meat with a decellularized vegetable scaffolding—basically a steak-shaped blob of vegetable that’s stripped of its cells and DNA. Decellularization is essential to growing meat, and the process could help grow human organs or remove the DNA from transplant organs to prevent rejection.
Alt-meats have only grown more popular since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, yet lab-grown meats are still unavailable outside of Singapore and a few other countries. While the FDA has a regulatory framework in place for the sale of cultivated meat, no lab-grown meats have been approved for sale in the United States. Like farmed meats, the FDA needs to track the growth of cultivated meat to protect public health, and oversee the labeling of cultivated meat to ensure that customers aren’t confused about the food’s origins.
Fortunately, companies like Aleph Farms expect FDA approval in the next two years. Aleph chief executive Didier Toubia says that the company is constantly in talks with the FDA, and that while bringing the operating to a global scale will take a long time, the lab-grown ribeye could hit store shelves before the end of 2022.