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Surprising Science

Can I Get That Hamburger Printed Medium Rare, Please?

A startup company has received a grant to create artificial meat using bio-ink and a 3D printing process.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What’s the Latest Development?

It’s generally agreed that the normal method of producing a hamburger carries with it some serious eco-unfriendly downsides. Thanks to a six-figure grant from the Thiel Foundation, a Missouri-based startup company, Modern Meadow, is preparing to offer a solution: Three-dimensional meat “printed” in a lab. It’s the latest development in an ongoing effort to reduce the impact of food production on the environment by using technology to create artificial substitutes that consumers will find palatable.

What’s the Big Idea?

As its short-term goal, Modern Meadow will use bio-ink – a substance consisting of living cells – to print a mix of layers that, combined, create “a sliver of meat around two centimetres by one centimetre, and less than half a millimetre thick, which is edible.” The company acknowledges that there will be hurdles to overcome between the lab and the grocery store, and predicts that their first customers will probably include ethical vegetarians and “culinary early-adopter consumers,” which may be code for “avant-garde Manhattan/Brooklyn restaurateurs.” Eventually, it hopes to reach out to populations who avoid meat for religious reasons, as well as to those for whom safe meat production is limited.

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