THE prospect of munching digitally printed meat has been met with raves and ridicule after the recent unveiling of a three-dimensional (3D)-printed rib-eye steak in Israel.
An Israeli company unveiled the first 3D-printed rib-eye steak this week in what could be a leap forward for lab-grown meat once it receives regulatory approval, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
While Namibians are a long way from getting their mouthful of ‘cultivated’ meat, The Namibian weighed in with some people who do not consume animal products about their thoughts on the alternative meat.
Jolene Nel remains steadfast that 3D printed meat is still not an ethical or sustainable production method.
“No, I would not eat it. Animals still get used and abused in the process,” she said.
Nel believes that since animal cells are required for the replication process, animals will need to be in fresh supply and may be subjected to living in confinement.
“Even if the extraction of cells is painless, these animals would be subject to living in a lab for the rest of their lives. To me, spending your life in a lab or cage is cruel and abusive,” she said.
Contrary to Nel, Toni Brockhoven entertained the idea of 3D-printed meat positively.
Brockhoven said the extraction of the animal cells is much more humane than current meat production methods.
“Let’s be clear: a bit of tissue is removed like a biopsy plug after something [is put on] to deaden the area. It is nothing like being de-balled, de-horned, debeaked, de-tailed or having teeth clipped without anesthetic,” she said.
Furthermore, she said animal foods cause diseases that plant foods don’t. This is, however, not the first instance of 3D-printed protein. Companies in countries like China, Japan and Spain have endeavoured to manufacture 3D-printed meat and fish as well.
Generally, 3D printing is the process of using computer-aided design (CAD) to create three-dimensional objects by layering materials like plastics, composites or bio-materials.
In the instance of 3D-printed meat, however, cells rather than plastics are used.
“Bio-printing is different in that you are printing with cell tissue rather than bio-degradable materials, for example,” explained founder and maker at Printhoek 3D in Windhoek Romar Quitasol.
Quitasol also said Namibia most likely does not have any bio-printers at this time.
According to a journal published by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), 3D bioprinting is a layer-by-layer manufacturing process that uses biological constituents, biochemicals and living cells.
The journal explains that the required cells are normally extracted from a living organism and then cultured into a bioink to ‘print’ tissue objects.
In a report prepared by Reuters, taste-testers who tried the printed meat product said the plant-based steak cooks, tastes and looks just like traditional meat.
Past research has tied red meat to increased risks of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.
Despite a global debate about this new method, it will still take a number of years to bring printed meat products to markets worldwide.
Furthermore, countries – Namibia included – will have to formulate regulatory frameworks around the production and consumption of the lab-produced meat before people can get a taste of it.