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Rice-Meat? Proteinised Rice Unveiled By South Korean Scientists

In a franken-like move toward sustainable food solutions, a team of researchers from the South Korean Yonsei University has developed hybrid rice, infused with cow muscle and fat cells effectively creating rice-meat.


This lab-grown rice, distinctively pink in color, aims to provide a cost-effective, safe, and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional meat consumption, potentially transforming dietary habits amidst the global climate crisis. But is it taking the process of 'proteinisation a step to far?


Hybrid beef rice in growing solution

Source: Yonsei University- South Korea Hybrid beef rice in growing solution


The development, led by primary author Sohyeon Park, was revealed in a study published in the journal Matter. Sohyeon Park touts the dual benefits of this 'food invention'. "Imagine obtaining all the nutrients we need from cell-cultured protein rice. Rice already boasts a high nutrient level, but augmenting it with cells from livestock can elevate its nutritional value even further".


The process involves coating the rice in fish gelatin to enhance the adhesion of meat cells, followed by the insertion of cow muscle and fat stem cells into the rice grains. These are then cultured in a petri dish, utilising rice's porous structure which acts as a biological scaffold, aiding in cell growth. After 9 to 11 days, the result is a rice grain that offers a novel texture, nutritional profile, and flavour, described by the researchers as akin to "microbeef sushi." The researchers say the end product is mushy pink rice with a firm bite and a creamy, beefy taste with hints of almond and coconut oil.


Hybrid 'beef rice' via Yonsei University

Source: Yonsei University - South Korea - Hybrid beef rice


Researchers say this innovative rice variant is not only higher in protein and fat but also presents a unique solution to the food crisis, boasting a significantly lower carbon footprint compared to traditional beef production. Preliminary cost estimates suggest that, if commercialised, this beef rice could be priced competitively at just USD$2.23 per kilogram, making it both an affordable and sustainable option.


Despite the growing market for meat alternatives, the acceptance and mainstream adoption of such lab-developed foods remain uncertain. Neil Ward, an agri-food and climate Professor at the University of East Anglia, acknowledged the positive implications of the research but highlighted the importance of gauging public interest in these new food technologies.


The South Korean research team plans to refine the development process enhancing the nutritional value, texture, and taste of the rice. They are optimistic about the potential applications of this hybrid food, from emergency food relief to space missions, signaling a future where sustainable and nutritious food solutions can address the global challenges of health, climate change, and food security.


Watch this space!

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