Research highlight

Food science: Beefing up cultured meat

Nature Food

March 31, 2020

A new method for producing an edible scaffold for growing cultured meat is reported in a paper published in Nature Food. The scaffold, made from textured soy protein, enables cultured cells to grow into a beef-like product for human consumption that performed well in preliminary taste tests.

Cultured, or cell-based, meat is an evolving technology that could generate meat without the need for animal agriculture. Creating cultured tissue requires a 3D scaffold to provide support to the engineered cells and mimic the environment in which animal muscles grow. The scaffold also needs to be edible and have a suitable nutritional value and texture.

Shulamit Levenberg and colleagues describe a new method to create a 3D scaffold out of textured soy protein, which is a cost-effective, edible and porous protein-based material. The authors found that bovine satellite cells — which are ‘seeded’ within the textured soy protein scaffolds where they multiply and create tissue — covered a large portion of the scaffolds. They also found that co-culture with bovine smooth muscle cells and tri-culture with bovine endothelial cells improved the development of extracellular macromolecules, thus creating an enhanced meat-like texture. Volunteers tested the product after cooking and reported that its taste, aroma, and texture were typical of real meat.

The authors conclude that their results may provide the tools for cultured meat to be scaled up to generate new protein sources for human consumption and help reduce reliance on animal agriculture.

doi: 10.1038/s43016-020-0046-5

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