Scientists have created “meat and rice” in response to the future food crisis.


  Using a method similar to that used for other cultured meat products, Korean researchers have used rice as a scaffold for culturing beef and fat cells, resulting in an edible “rice-beef” combination. The advantage of using rice as a scaffold is that it adds nutrients to the rice, and the current fat and protein content of “beef-rice” is higher than that of standard rice, which may help solve the food crisis in the future.

The team of South Korean researchers behind the project, published Feb. 14 in the journal Matter, hopes the “meat-and-rice” combination can be used as a supplemental food in food-insecure areas or to feed the military, and reduce the environmental impact of raising beef.

Ottley, a biotechnologist at Washington State University in Pullman, USA, said, “Finding alternative sources of protein or improving the efficiency of traditional livestock production is critical, and it may be one of the most important things facing humanity in the future.”

In recent years, this demand has spurred a variety of cultured meat programs ranging from mature salmon fillets to products similar to ground beef. As of last year, only the United States and Singapore had approved the sale of lab-cultured meat.

The research team tried to culture beef cells directly in the porous crevices of a grain of rice, but the cells didn’t fuse well with the rice, said So-hyun Park, co-author of the paper and a chemical engineer at Massachusetts General Hospital. Instead, they found that encapsulating rice with fish gelatin and a widely used food additive called microbial transglutaminase improved cell attachment and growth.

The team “mounted” the fish gelatin and additive mixture on uncooked rice and “seeded” the rice with bovine muscle and fat cells. The cells were then placed in a growth medium for about 1 week. At the end of the incubation period, the researchers washed and steamed the “meat rice” as they would normally cook rice.

A 100-gram serving of “meat rice” had 0.01 grams of fat and 0.31 grams of protein, an increase of 7 percent and 9 percent, respectively. According to the study, this is basically the equivalent of eating 100 grams of rice and 1 gram of brisket. Tufts University molecular biologist Johnson Yuan said this is because of the low content of beef cells, which may only form a thin film on the rice, and that the nutrient content could be improved in the future by increasing the number of beef cells on the rice.

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