“Shall we grill today? All right, I’ll turn the printer on. ”In the future, this could be something like that at Eshchar Ben-Shitrit before a barbecue. Because his Israeli start-up has developed a 3D printer that can be used to produce steaks that are made from plant material but that should look, feel and taste like an original.
Redefine Meat is the name of the company behind this idea – which translates from English to “redefine meat”. And that is exactly the goal of the cleantech company founded in 2018: revolution in the meat industry.
“We have developed processes that offer a sustainable alternative to raising animals and eating animal products,” says CEO and co-founder Ben-Shitrit, who was also enthusiastic about the idea of donors from Germany. For example, Germany’s largest poultry company PHW Group with its main brand Wiesenhof is one of the investors.
“Old steak” is the name of the product that comes from Redefine Meat’s 3D printers. For recipe, juiciness, texture and mouthfeel, the Israelis worked with chefs and butchers, but also food technicians and taste experts, including Givaudan from Switzerland, the world‘s largest manufacturer of flavors and fragrances.
Vegetable protein sources, fat and water
In the end, there are around 70 parameters that flow into the product, say the founders, who got to know each other at Hewlett-Packard (HP) during the joint development work for new digital printers.
“We knew that the development of a high-quality, nutrient-rich meat-free alternative product would require new technologies and production processes that were previously not available in the food industry,” says Ben-Shitrit.
The then developed printer produces and combines according to the entrepreneur separate recipes for the three key components of meat: muscle tissue, fat tissue and blood.
The market launch should take place this year. The vegan steak is first tested in top restaurants, including in Germany.
From 2021, printers are to be built on an industrial scale and distributed to the catering trade. It is said that these machines will produce around 100 kilograms of vegetable meat per hour – at the moment it is apparently around three to six kilograms.
The exact formula is not announced by the company from Tel Aviv. We are talking about three vegetable protein sources plus fat and water. However, it is not the finished printed meat that is to be sold, but the corresponding printer.
Restaurants can then put them in their kitchens and serve them with their desired digital recipe variants – depending on whether the steak should be softer or greasier.
A quarter want to try
According to experts, the old steak from the printer is the logical next step in the ever-growing market for meat substitutes. Last but not least, the sustained sales success of meatless meat providers such as Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods or the Garden Gourmet brand from Nestlé lend momentum.
Due to the strong increase in demand, Beyond Meat has only recently started its own production in Europe, specifically in Zoeterwoude in the Netherlands. So far, American products have been imported entirely from overseas.
The current study “Meat of the Future” by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) shows just how much the topic is picking up speed. According to this, 15 percent of a good 2,000 German citizens surveyed consider plant-based replacement products to be a good alternative to conventional meat. Another 26 percent want to at least try the new offers.
However, consumers are similarly curious about edible insects and in-vitro meat. Here too, according to the UBA study, the proportion of those who want to try out such replacement products is around a quarter each.
Apart from the courageous testers, the skepticism among the population regarding insects and meat from the Petri dish is much more pronounced than with imitations of plants, whose sales volume, according to UBA estimates, will already be around 220 million euros in the current year.
The main motivation for switching from meat to plant is on the one hand ethical reasons, for example animal welfare or the working and living conditions of workers in the meat industry. On the other hand, environmental issues play a major role.
Because meat production is anything but environmentally friendly, say experts. According to the environmental protection organization WWF, almost 70 percent of the direct greenhouse gas emissions in food are attributable to animal products, particularly meat.
UBA data support this statement: “Meat production has been shown to damage the environment and contribute to global warming,” said government president Dirk Messner.
“Indispensable to reduce meat consumption”
In the current study, the UBA has now calculated and compared the environmental impact of beef and meat substitute products. The result: some of the plant-based alternatives emit less than a tenth of greenhouse gases.
And the water and land consumption is also many times lower, since plants such as wheat and soy are not only used as animal feed, but end up on the plate without a lot of detours. In-vitro meat, on the other hand, is not yet available on the market, making the environmental impact difficult to assess, the UBA notes.
Messner calls for a rethink in politics and improved framework conditions. “From an environmental point of view, it is essential to reduce meat consumption,” says the head of the authorities. “As long as the price of the food does not also reflect the environmental damage, the cheap neck steak will be given preference over a soy schnitzel even longer.”
Every German citizen currently consumes almost 60 kilograms of meat per year, according to statistics from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture (BMEL). The consumption of pork has been declining for years, and it is increasing in poultry.