Scientists use soy protein as skeleton to grow beef in the lab

2019 is a very important year for the world of artificial meat, with Impossible Foods partnering with fast food giant Burger King to launch artificial meat burgers. Scientists are working to grow beef in labs as companies such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat seek plant-based meat substitutes.

In a new study published Monday in the journal Nature Foods, Israeli researchers detailed the process of making a 3D stent made from soy tissue protein, an edible by-product of soy oil, which acts as a skeleton for the growth of cow cells to create beef-like muscle tissue, three volunteers said. These muscle tissues have a “pleasant meaty taste” when fried or baked, and fully replicate the texture of the meat.

The process of growing meat in the lab is markedly different from that used by companies such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. These meat substitute manufacturers use soy and potato protein to build their products. They have won praise for building plant-based products that still look like real goods, even though they are not structurally similar to meat.

Cultured meat is different and is designed to produce meat at the molecular level. Scientists believe that cells that can trick cattle or chickens into becoming specific muscle tissues, but to shape them into pieces of meat requires a scaffold. That’s textured soy protein, a porous material that, like a sponge, provides room for cells to stick and grow, and can be easily formed in the lab. The team added a mixture of cow muscle cells called “satellite cells” and then cultured them with multiple factors to stimulate their growth and maturation.

Currently, cell-based meats are a long way from mass production, and they don’t have the scalability provided by Impossible Foods or Beyond Meat. They are expensive to manufacture and need laboratories to do so. The development of reliable stents that produce the same flavor and can be manufactured with cheaper, higher throughput is the first step in bringing cell-based meat to market.

Scientists use soy protein as skeleton to grow beef in the lab