Japanese scientists work up an appetite for lab-grown Wagyu beef

TOKYO, October 8 – Japan’s famous Wagyu beef, a delicious dish that can cost more than $200 a pound at some top restaurants, may be more affordable in the form of a lab-grown replica.

Japanese scientists say they have succeeded in recreating Wagyu, famous for its fat marbling, in a lab, which may eventually look and taste like real steak.

Wagyu beef comes from a breed of black cattle, most famously farmed in the Kobe region of western Japan.

Researchers at Osaka University, led by Michiya Matsusaki, used a 3D bioprinter and bovine stem cells to replicate Wagyu’s distinctive marbling in a solid steak-like piece, not a minced form that has fueled other attempts at cultured meat. has typed.

Osaka University Professor Michiya Matsusaki and fellow researchers look at a 3D printer in a laboratory at Suita University in Osaka Prefecture, Japan, October 5, 2021.
Osaka University Professor Michiya Matsusaki and fellow researchers look at a 3D printer in a laboratory at Suita University in Osaka Prefecture, Japan, October 5, 2021.
Reuters/Akira Tomoshige

It currently takes about three to four weeks to produce one cubic centimeter of cultured meat, so it is not ready for the grocery store yet. But as technology and efficiency improve, the method could produce something that mimics the real thing, Matsusaki said.

“If we’re able to produce a lot of meat from a few cells, there’s a chance we can better respond to food and protein shortage issues in the future,” Matsusaki told Reuters.

Environmental and ethical concerns around the meat industry have spurred interest in vegetable substitutes and the potential for lab-grown products. Sources say this has fueled strong growth in developers of real meat alternatives, including plant-based burger maker Impossible Foods Inc., which is preparing for a public listing that could raise more than $10 billion. Is.

Matsusaki Suita holds a petri dish with cultured Wagyu beef in a laboratory at the university in Osaka Prefecture, Japan.
Matsusaki Suita holds a petri dish with cultured Wagyu beef in a laboratory at the university in Osaka Prefecture, Japan.
Reuters/Akira Tomoshige

Matsusaki said the bioprinting and culture techniques developed in his lab could also have uses in human medicine, such as growing replacements for damaged muscles.

Matsusaki said it now takes about 10,000 yen ($89.40) to produce a one-gram lab-grown Wagyu, but with more automation, the price could drop so much that it’s marketable to the general public within five years.

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