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  • Writer's picturePhoebe Fraser

Scientists grow cow muscle cells inside grains of rice

Scientists at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, have created a new type of food – a ‘beef-rice’ hybrid.

The grains are packed with beef muscle and fat cells, cultured in a laboratory, which the scientists believe could offer an affordable and eco-friendly source of protein.

The researchers – who say the food may serve as “relief for famine, military ration, or even space food” in the future – started by first coating rice grains with fish gelatin, providing a base for the cow muscle cells to stick to.

They then allowed the cells to grow throughout the rice grains, which took about 5-7 days, before the rice was placed in a medium that encouraged the cow cells to multiply inside the grains.

The resulting ‘beef-rice’ hybrid can be boiled or steamed, as with normal rice. According to New Scientist, Jinkee Hong, a researcher working on the hybrid rice, said that its texture is “harder, more brittle and less sticky than regular rice, with a nutty taste”.

“It’s not beef-like in the traditional sense, but offers a new gastronomic experience that combines the familiarity of rice with the richness of meaty umami flavours,” he said.

The hybrid rice contains 7% more protein and 8% more fat than ordinary rice, with the scientists estimating it to produce around 6kg of CO2 for every 100g of protein, while traditional beef releases about 50kg.

Researcher Sohyeon Park commented: ”Imagine obtaining all the nutrients we need from cell-cultured protein rice. Rice already has a high nutrient level, but adding cells from livestock can further boost it. I didn’t expect the cells to grow so well in the rice. Now I see a world of possibilities for this grain-based hybrid food.”

Unlike other kinds of cell-based meat, Hong said that the ingredients used in producing the ‘beef-rice’ are well-known, provide a high nutritional value and are not expensive, with no genetic modification involved in the process.

Hong concluded: “These advantages…offer a way to produce meat in a more sustainable manner, reducing the environmental footprint associated with traditional livestock farming and offering a novel food source that could help meet the growing global demand for protein”.


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