A ribeye steak has become something of a weekend treat in my home during pandemic lockdowns, food being one of the few indulgences remaining to lift one’s mood. It’s exciting to see that the world’s first cultivated ‘slaughter-free’ ribeye steak has now been produced by Israeli company Aleph Farms Ltd. and its research partner at the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering at the Technion (Israel’s Institute of Technology). It may not come directly from a cow but I wouldn’t hesitate to fry one up with some garlic and onions, it might not be long before that’s an option.
3D bioprinting technology
Unlike 3D printing technology, Aleph Farms’ 3D bioprinting technology is the printing of actual living cells that are then incubated to grow, differentiate, and interact, in order to acquire the texture and qualities of a real steak.
A proprietary system, similar to the vascularization that occurs naturally in tissues, enables the perfusion of nutrients across the thicker tissue and gives the steak a similar shape and structure to its native form as found in livestock before and during cooking.
This bioprinted ribeye incorporates fat and muscle similar to its slaughtered counterpart and boasts the same textural attributes of a delicious tender, juicy ribeye steak that you might otherwise purchase from the butcher or supermarket.
Sustainable cultivated meat
If the process of producing one of these steaks sounds a little ‘manufactured’ Aleph Farms assures us that their beef steaks are made from non-genetically engineered cells, isolated from a cow without the use of Fetal Bovine Serum (FBS).
The company also claims that a fraction of the resources are required to produce their steaks compared to those needed to raise an entire animal for slaughter using traditional livestock farming methods, not to mention the absence of antibiotics in their process.
The company has recently received top accolades for its contribution to the global sustainability movement from the World Economic Forum, UNESCO, Netexplo Forum, FAO and EIT Food.
Advances in 3D bioprinting
Aleph Farms unveiled its first thin-cut steak in 2018, a world first, but that did not involve any 3D bioprinting technology. Now the company has the ability to produce any type of steak and plans to expand its portfolio of quality meat products.
“This breakthrough reflects an artistic expression of the scientific expertise of our team,” enthuses Didier Toubia, Co-Founder and CEO of Aleph Farms. “I am blessed to work with some of the greatest people in this industry. We recognize some consumers will crave thicker and fattier cuts of meat. This accomplishment represents our commitment to meeting our consumer’s unique preferences and taste buds, and we will continue to progressively diversify our offerings,” adds Toubia.
“Additional meat designs will drive a larger impact in the mid and long term. This milestone for me marks a major leap in fulfilling our vision of leading a global food system transition toward a more sustainable, equitable and secure world.”
Technion Professor Shulamit Levenberg is Aleph’s Co-Founder, Chief Scientific Advisor and a major brainpower behind the company’s IP. He is also considered a global leader in tissue engineering and has amassed over two decades of research in the field at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in the United States and at the Technion, in Israel.
“With the realization of this milestone, we have broken the barriers to introducing new levels of variety into the cultivated meat cuts we can now produce. As we look into the future of 3D bioprinting, the opportunities are endless,” said Levenberg.
Ultimately Aleph Farms’ plans to create a global platform for local production of slaughter free meat, leveraging a highly scalable technology to create culinary experiences that can be adapted for the different food cultures around the world.