It looks like meat, but it’s not.
This is the logic behind the bioprinting steak, a project developed by industrial management and technology researchers from Old Simatek, in El Salvador. Meat that is not meat is an alternative to agricultural production, responsible for 90% loss of natural vegetation from Brazil.
It works like this: 15 specialists are working on tests made from stem cells extracted from beef. They are located in the laboratories of the Senai Institute of Food and Beverage Technology and the Senai Institute for Advanced Health Systems.
There, they develop cells similar in morphological structure to meat, which receive nutrients and multiply. The lab steak is 3D printed on a bioprinter. And it works: it has the look and texture of meat.
Now the challenge is to make it as tasty as picanha, with the only difference being that it will not come from an animal, but from a cultured protein. “Cells are combined with edible biomaterials that make up the solid part of laboratory meat,” explained Josian Dantas, coordinator of the Master of Industrial Management and Technology program at Senai Cimatec. to the website Industry Portal.
According to the researcher, the scientists are using a product based on chitosan, a natural supplement extracted from shrimp shells. The red color, which mimics the color of meat, comes from natural dyes, the same ones that the industry already uses for human consumption.
“The farms of the future will not only have pastures,” he said. “They will also be formed by large vats of concentration and multiplication of stem cells.”
On the market since 2027
The bioprinted steak still has to go through regulatory steps for the product to reach the Brazilian market, like all products sold in the country. But researchers estimate that the products will hit supermarket shelves by 2027.
Today this type of meat is sold only in Singapore. Israel and Japan should do the same soon. Two countries have advanced in the process of regulating the sale and consumption of bioprinted meat.
In the Senai project, there are links to technologies already developed by American and Israeli startups. Despite this, the role of the team is huge and many of the decisions needed for meat production come from Brazilian researchers.
Meat without harm to the environment
A bioprinted steak is one solution to halving global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. But it can also help fight food insecurity in Brazil and around the world. And, of course, it has economic potential.
“This is a business opportunity for the food industry,” said Tatiana Neri, food engineer at Senai Cimatec. The goal is not to replace real meat, especially beef, but to offer the market an additional alternative.
According to Leone Andrade, director of technology and innovation at Senai Cimatec, the working group was looking for companies and industries to assist in the latter stages of development, even if the technology is not yet 100% mastered. “Shortly after that, our partners should launch products on the market,” he said.
Meanwhile, testing continues. “We are moving towards accelerating these initial stages, and this requires resources and investment,” Neri said.