Meat-free vegan burgers are already a well-established meal, but a new food-tech start up says its vegan 'steak' can not only fool the tastebuds into thinking you are eating beef, but also offer a more sustainable food supply system.
Novameat says their method of 3D printing plant-based proteins can produce a vegan meal with the texture and appearance of a real beef steak.
"It is done with a printer so that we can get at the same time the appearance and the texture of a traditional steak," Novameat founder Giuseppe Scionti said after the first public demonstration of Version 2.0 of their steak.
"We are ordering the fibres as if they were muscular fibres, so we are micro-extruding these filaments so that the plant-based steak has at the same time the appearance and the texture of an actual beef steak," he said
Described as a "Nespresso for meat substitutes", the novel 3D printer uses syringes filled with plant-based ingredients that form a fibrous meat-like structure when extruded, line by line, to build up the shape the chef wants.
Printing a steak at the Culinary School of Barcelona took around 20 minutes but was worth the wait according to students eager to try the finished product.
"I like it," said one student, chewing a flash-fried fried piece of seasoned Novameat.
At least two other startups are trying to 'print' a steak, but Mr Scionti said they are imitating ground meat like in beef burgers; not recreating the meat micro-fibres as Novameat is doing.
The company estimates that it costs about €27 to print 1 kilogram of steak, based on the cost of the raw ingredients. This price is expected to drop as they scale up.
Would you eat a 3D printed 'steak'? A company in Spain is confident its vegan product can fool the tastebuds into thinking you are eating beef | Read more: https://t.co/aO818c4gXm pic.twitter.com/8QlzMAcfOl— RTÉ News (@rtenews) February 26, 2020
Mr Scionti has a PhD in tissue bio-engineering and said he discovered how to achieve the meaty texture while trying to regenerate tissue to treat animals.
The company says its mission is to create an alternative to what it calls the current the problem of 'unsustainable and inefficient industrial livestock production' and feed the planet's growing population while better managing our planet's natural resources.
Mr Scionti says he expects the first commercial version of his food printer will be bought by restaurants as a novelty, but hopes to produce a version for home-use as well.
"Imagine a future where somebody can have this machine at home and create customised food in their kitchen," he said, adding they are now in talks to collaborate with top chefs in Italy and Spain
"The next step is to work with top chefs to create new products which can be plant-based, for example pork, for example imagine bacon, or plant-based fish. We are trying to do the most complex ones, and we are starting with salmon."
They hope to have the final version of the Novameat plant-based steak available at a top restaurant before the end of 2020.