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The food of the future ? When rice meets beef muscle

© Bilguun Bayarmagnai/Pexels

Since we have become more fully aware of the impact of our food on the planet, new solutions are being considered. The Valtus site lists several: vertical urban farms, algae-based food, 3D food printer or cellular meat (grown in the laboratory). This rather surprising new find comes to us from South Korea and could fall into the latter category. These researchers published the results of their study on February 14 in the journal Matter. They succeeded in developing laboratory-grown rice enriched with beef muscle cells and fat. Simple scientific delusion or potential answer to future challenges of global food security ?

A promising technology for nutrition

This « rice-beef » is the result of culture of animal cells on a support, here rice. Everything is immersed in an environment conducive to the development of these hybrid cells. In terms of taste, not much to do with rice a priori: this one is firmer, and its taste is described as more “nutty” than classic rice.

The most important thing is surely not the taste of this new food, but indeed its nutritional profile. If rice is already interesting from this point of view because of its vegetable protein content, its low lipid content and its high content of minerals and trace elements, this cross changes the situation a little. Indeed, this new type of rice therefore contains more fats and proteins.

Jon Oatley is an animal biotechnologist at Washington State University in Pullman. He emphasizes: “ Finding alternative sources of protein or making conventional animal production more efficient is crucial (…) This is probably one of the most important issues for the future of humanity  “. This enriched rice could be one of the solutions to help food insecure communities around the world. According to Terre Solidaire, food insecurity affected 2.3 billion people in 2021 and it has only increased since 2015.

A complex but promising project

To achieve this result, the researchers encountered numerous obstacles. The main difficulty was to get the animal cells to adhere to the rice grain. To do this, they developed a special coating, concocted from fish gelatin and microbial transglutaminase, an additive commonly used in industry to extend the life of foods.

This coating allowed the beef muscle and fat cells to attach more effectively to the grains and grow properly. To achieve the desired result, this “ rice-beef ” requires one total week of growth.

The development of this coating opens the way to potential improvements, notably the increase of bovine cells per grain of rice, further improving its protein content .

Towards sustainable and accessible food

This hybrid rice, in addition to its nutritional profile (7% more fat and 9% more protein than classic rice), has several big advantages. The first being its price. It is necessarily more expensive than normal rice ($2.20 per kilo), but much cheaper than beef ($14.88 per kilo) since its production cost is estimated at 2.23 dollars per kilo.

For disadvantaged communities, it could guarantee an affordable source of nutrition and quite effective if it is one day produced on a larger scale.

Another advantage: its ecological footprint is much lighter than the production of beef, with a much more interesting carbon footprint. According to Trajectories, meat production is equivalent to 14.5% of global greenhouse gas production. Beef is the worst performer, since it weighs the heaviest in the scales. To produce 1 kilo, 60 kg of CO2 are released into the atmosphere.

The « rice-beef » is already a technical and scientific feat in itself. In the process of improvement, it could very well be one of the pillars of tomorrow's emergency power supply. Indeed, the fault of our culinary habits, seeing this food on the menu of a restaurant or on our daily plate remains difficult to imagine. However, one day we may no longer have much of a choice to turn to these solutions to continue to nourish ourselves. In the 1940s, it would have been difficult to predict that millions of hamburgers would one day leave factories on a global scale. Eighty years later, this is nevertheless the case; proof that you can never be sure of anything.

  • South Korean researchers have succeeded in developing a hybrid rice enriched with beef cells.
  • < li>This « rice-beef » was complex to develop, but presents a very interesting nutritional profile.

  • It could be considered to fight against food insecurity and come to the aid of disadvantaged populations.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116