Alternative meat startup Novameat has unveiled what it calls the world’s biggest piece of cell-based, whole-cut meat analog. Since its foundation in 2018, the Barcelona-based startup has been 3D printing plant-based meat substitutes to combat the unsustainable and insufficient global agricultural system and solve the world’s food supply problem. The news comes weeks after Novameat received €250,000 through the Spanish government to ramp up 3D printed meat production by integrating its microextrusion-technology into higher-output industrial printing machines.
Novameat’s proprietary technology mimics the texture, taste, appearance, and nutritional properties of animal meat products, including beef steaks. Based on CEO and Founder Giuseppe Scionti’s decade-long tissue engineering research, the company’s microextrusion platform takes in vegetable fat (3%), water (72%), and plant protein sources (25%) to print a meat fiber matrix that looks and tastes like the real thing.
In an interview with the media site FoodNavigator, Scionti revealed that Novameat’s latest development, along with the 3D printing technology that created it, could be a game-changer for the cultured meat industry. Scionti referred to his new product as a “hybrid meat analog” since his company mixed mammalian adipose cells with a biocompatible plant-based large-scale scaffold with a volume of 22,500 mm3.
Novameat’s feat even surpassed the previous largest scaffold to sustain cultivated meat applications. In December 2020, scientists from the South Korean genetic research firm Eone Diagnomics Genome Center (EDGC) had received media attention after 3D printing a scaffold that could hold a volume of 17,000 mm3. The company relied on cultured meat production 3D printing technology and had already surpassed all precedents in size.
Led by Novameat’s Junior Research Scientist and biotechnologist Esther Plans Cortinas, the complex project is part of the startup’s goal to create “clean meat.” The development could help reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, the use of land and water, overcoming the challenges of today’s unsustainable and inefficient animal agriculture industry by creating a healthy, efficient, humane, and sustainable food supply system.
In one of Novameat’s recent Instagram posts, followers asked about the new fake meat’s taste and texture. As for the taste, it’s “not ready yet,” said the company, but the texture is “fibrous.” Many cell- and plant-based meat businesses have trouble recreating the texture and taste of the real meat. Emulating the mouthfeel and even the smell can be challenging to reconcile. Moreover, to attract the sizeable meat-eating segment of the population, even the chewing sensation needs to be similar to real meat.
Globally, we consume 346.14 million tons of meat every year. In 2030 this number could see a 44% increase. Nonetheless, world meat demand projections are uncertain, especially considering the rising demand for meat alternatives and the booming fake meat market. For Novameat, the alternative steak revolution could be right around the corner. The company has plans to launch its meat-substitute producing system in the foodservice industry sometime in 2021. The platform includes a customized printer that will enable companies to create tissues needed to make beefsteak.
As part of its growth strategy, Novameat also announced a collaboration with Disfrutar, a spin-off from the famous molecular gastronomy pioneering restaurant El Bulli. The three chefs behind the two-Michelin star Disfrutar restaurant break new ground every day by creating food that looks like art and incorporates a blissful Mediterranean taste. Partnering with equally innovative minds in the food industry can help Novameat leverage its advanced technology and eventually help solve some of the planet’s most complex burdens.
“Disfrutar will have full-access to Novameat’s patented micro-extrusion technology through 3D printing,” said Scionti in a recent interview with The Spoon. “Disfrutar’s creativity lab now already has Novameat’s first 3D printer located outside Novameat’s Innovation Lab. The three chefs have been working two decades as El Bulli chefs, and two of them (Oriol Castro and Eduard Xatruch) were part of the legendary creativity Lab of El Bulli, ElBullitaller. This group of chefs is the same that invented spherification technique of molecular gastronomy.”
Companies like Novameat are at the intersection of technology and food. Eco-friendly or animal welfare conscious foods are getting serious attention from consumers. Incredibly as the COVID-19 pandemic turned the traditional meat supply chain upside down, food giants like KFC and McDonald’s, announced the introduction of new plant-based meat burgers or lab-grown chicken nuggets. For the last years, clean meat startups have navigated one of the largest sectors of the global economy, the food industry dominated by a relatively small number of companies that wield an enormous amount of influence. Disrupting an entire industry is never easy, but significant steps like Novameat’s cell-based whole cut meat analog are crucial to building a future ruled by unconventional meat sources.