Scientists create beef-infused rice using cow cells

Your future dinner plate may include some fattening rice. No, not beef and rice. Beef rice. In a new study, researchers in Korea say they have created rice filled with muscle and fat cells from cows. The hybrid grain is claimed to contain more protein and fat than traditional rice, and the team argues that it should be cheaper and more environmentally friendly to produce than beef and rice combined.

The study authors were inspired to create their new food as a way to address the many persistent challenges in agriculture. The food industry as a whole is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, for example, the bulk of which comes from meat production. Many scientists and companies have proposed potential sustainable alternatives to conventional foods, including lab-grown meat (also called cell-based meat), mass-produced insects, and many vegetarian and vegan products.

One research avenue that piqued the authors' curiosity is hybrid food, or food that combines plant and animal ingredients. Some teams already have it I tried With existing products such as plant protein (a soy-based flour product similar to meat) being used as a scaffold for growing cell-based beef. But the team hypothesized that rice might be a particularly attractive way to combine with meat, because it naturally contains a mix of macro- and micronutrients and is not a common source of allergens, unlike soy and other common meat substitutes.

To create the hybrid rice, researchers cultured rice grains with muscle cells or cow fat cells, then cultured the cells with the help of a petri dish.

To create the hybrid rice, researchers cultured rice grains with muscle cells or cow fat cells, then cultured the cells with the help of a petri dish.
picture: Yonsei University

To produce their hybrid food, they cultured rice grains with muscle cells or cow fat cells, with the goal of producing protein-rich rice or fat-rich rice. These grains will then be placed inside a nutritious petri dish, and over the next 10 days or so, the cells will hopefully multiply and develop into mature cells located within the rice. But they soon realized that bare rice alone may not be the best scaffold for these cells. So they decided to first coat the rice with fish gelatin and the food additive microbial transglutaminase, believing that these ingredients would enhance the adhesion of the rice to cells.

Their subsequent innovation, which they called “microbeef,” appears to have been an early success. Compared with cooked rice, the two batches of hybrid rice contained about 8% more protein and 7% more fat, respectively. They also conducted tests for the smell of the food, suggesting that it had a rich flavour, with the flavor of beef and almonds for the rice with added protein and the smell of cream, butter and coconut oil for the rice with added fat.

“The results of this study provide feasible ideas for creating different types of future hybrid foods,” the researchers wrote in their paper. published Wednesday in the magazine issue.

This product is still modestly more nutritious than regular rice for now. But the authors argue that the rice they produce should already be cheaper to manufacture and produce fewer greenhouse emissions than beef and rice combined, at least once its production can be scaled up. They also believe they can continue to improve the process and produce more beef-like rice, and are already working on a better growth strategy for higher-fat rice. All of the ingredients used to make hybrid rice are edible, meaning they pose no additional food safety concerns.

Ultimately, the team envisions that their hybrid food, and others like it, could be a boon to people around the world, and even beyond.

“In the future, a self-production system for grain-based hybrid foods could ensure food relief in underdeveloped countries, during war, and in space,” they wrote.

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