Printing Food to Mitigate Climate Change
The convergence of two technologies is making it possible to free up millions of hectares of agricultural land devoted to livestock. A combination of culturing cells and 3D printing of all types of meat is likely to change land use and the diet of hundreds of millions of people around the world. It could provide reliable food sources even in the face of floods, drought and other environmental catastrophes.
I’m not a Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) afficionado. But imagine if KFC were to produce its chicken nuggets from stem cells and 3D-printing plants. In 2020 the news wires lit up with stories of a Moscow, Russia, research laboratory under contract to the fried chicken restaurant chain to produce 3D-printed chicken nuggets.
For KFC the announcement could be seen as a public relations coup since the company is often the target of animal rights advocacy groups. KFC is truly a global enterprise, found in 145 countries at 24,000 individual locations. According to PETA, an organization focused on the ethical treatment of animals, 9 billion chickens raised on factory farms are slaughtered for their meat in the U.S. every year. A good percentage of that number go to fast-food chains like KFC.
That’s why KFC sees the growing of meat harvested from cell-cultures as a way out of the ethical dilemma. A future where the restauranteur can say “no chickens were killed here” would be a welcome mantra with other potential benefits to the global enivronment.
This is cellular agriculture. Its products are called cultured meat. The source of cultured meat is animal stem cells harvested from subject hosts that are not slaughtered. Once ideal chicken, pig, sheep, cattle, etc., candidates are identified, stem cells are harvested and then using electronic, chemical and biological culturing cultivated to create vast populations of cells of various tissue types from muscle to fat.
Turning stem cells from host animals into chicken pieces, beef steaks, pork and lamb chops, and other cuts of meat requires scaffoldings of bio-absorbable materials which form a framework for 3D printers to apply these cells as “ink” to create finished cuts. Getting the balance of fat to protein to give the 3D-printed meat the same look, texture, and taste is a challenge that the technology in time can meet. The company KFC has produced plant-based “chicken” nuggets and tried them on customers in the United States using Beyond Meats’ chicken products.
KFC Singapore has announced that it has debuted its first-ever meat-free alternative product called Zero Chicken Burger. It will be available for consumers at all KFC Singapore restaurants except the outlets at Singapore Polytechnic and Singapore Zoo.
Claiming to have a similar taste to that of chicken, the poultry-free Zero Chicken Burger showcases a mycoprotein meat-free patty made with Colonel Sanders’ original recipe of 11 herbs and spices. Mycoprotein is a protein derived from fungi popularised by Quorn for its meat-like texture. The burger preparation also includes lettuce and sliced cheese topped with mayonnaise and BBQ sauce making the sesame bun burger unsuitable for vegans.