Coming soon to a 3D printer near you: Plant-based steaks

A chef cuts a piece of uncooked 3D-printed plant-based steak mimicking real beef and produced by Israeli start-up Redefine Meat during a demonstration at its facility in Rehovot, Israel. Image: Amir Cohen/Reuters

Israeli start-up Redefine Meat plans to launch 3D printers to produce plant-based steaks mimicking real beef next year in a bid for a slice of the fast-growing alternative meat market.

Meat substitutes are increasingly popular with consumers concerned about animal welfare and the environment, boosting sales at Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods and Nestle. Redefine Meat, based in Rehovot, south of Tel Aviv, will first market test its “Alt-Steak” at high-end restaurants this year before rolling out its industrial-scale 3D printers to meat distributors in 2021.

“You need a 3D printer to mimic the structure of the muscle of the animal,” CEO Eshchar Ben-Shitrit said. The machines to be launched next year will be able to print 20kg an hour and eventually hundreds, at a lower cost than real meat.

Founded in 2018, the company raised US$6-million last year in a round led by CPT Capital, an investor in Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. Hanaco Venture Capital and German poultry group PHW also invested.

“The market is definitely waiting for a breakthrough in terms of improving the texture,” said Stacy Pyett, who manages the Proteins for Life programme at Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands. She said 3D printing is one technology competing to improve alternative meat texture, but “having new technologies … doesn’t necessarily solve the flavour and taste problem”.

Israeli start-up Redefine Meat’s 3D printer produces a plant-based steak mimicking real beef. Image: Amir Cohen/Reuters

Alternative meat sales could reach $140-billion by 2029, about 10% of the world meat market, according to Barclays. Spanish competitor Novameat is also working on 3D-printed plant meat, including a whole-muscle pork cut developed during the coronavirus crisis which disrupted pork supply.

“Our technology will be available in selected top restaurants in Europe this year, before we focus on scaling it up during 2021,” CEO Giuseppe Scionti said.  — Reported by Silke Koltrowitz and Tova Cohen, (c) 2020 Reuters