3D Bioprinting Solutions, a Skolkovo resident belonging to the Skolkovo Foundation Biomedical Cluster, recently agreed to collaborate with KFC in developing an innovative technology aimed at making chicken using a 3D bio-printer.
The two sides came up with the idea as a means to tap into the healthy lifestyle trend, which includes healthy eating, and to meet demand for meat alternatives and for foods that are produced in an eco-friendly way. The result is lab-produced chicken nuggets that look and taste as similar as possible to the original KFC version but are more eco-friendly than meat produced using traditional means. According to a joint statement from both companies, the partnership aims to have a product that is ready for testing by autumn 2020.
According to Yusef Khesuani, the co-founder and executive partner of 3D Bioprinting Solutions, technologies based on 3D bio-printing have already attained widespread recognition in medicine, and are now taking on a larger role in food sectors such as meat production. “The rapid development of these technologies will, in the future, allow us to make meat products printed with a 3D bio-printer more accessible. We hope that as a result of our collaboration with KFC the technology will help quicken the rollout of similar products onto the market,” said Mr. Khesuani, whose team has much experience in bio-manufacturing not just on Earth but also in space.
In 2018, engineers from 3D Bioprinting Solutions assembled a magnetic bioprinter and sent it to the International Space Station. The series of experiments resulted in the successful printing of human cartilage tissue and a mouse thyroid.
Within the framework of the collaborative project with KFC, 3D Bioprinting Solutions is developing three-dimensional bio-printing technology that uses chicken cells and plant material that can produce the flavor and texture of chicken meat almost without the use of animals. KFC provides all the necessary ingredients (breading and spices) to attain the final product’s signature flavor.
Irina Gushina, the chain’s PR director in Russia, CIS, and Eastern Europe, told Vedemosti that KFC’s most popular products are chicken wings. However, because they contain bones, it’s not possible to produce them using a 3D bio-printer, so they selected a product that does not contain them: chicken nuggets. Nonetheless, Ms. Gushina has not ruled out the possibility of producing other products such as chicken strips.
The bio-printing method has a number of advantages – cultured meat contains the same trace nutrients that regular meat has, but does not contain additional additives associated with traditional farming methods and animal raising. Thus, meat products made from animal cells are cleaner, more eco-friendly and ethical, because their production excludes cruelty or maltreatment of animals.
Cultured meat has some way to go before it becomes a major force in the food industry, because the price per kilo in most cases is still far from that of meat produced using traditional methods – the first ever cultured meat burger made in 2013 cost a whopping $325,000, and the US company Just Inc. recently produced a prototype chicken nugget for $50. However, this new food sector is still in its early days; once cultured meat is scaled up and produced at a competitive price, it will turn the food industry on its head and the benefits will be manifold. Agriculture is estimated to be responsible for up to a quarter of global emissions and meat production is one of the main culprits. The proliferation of cultured meat on the food market will greatly lessen farm runoff, which pollutes rivers and seas, and reduce deforestation due to the fall in demand for pasture. It will also mean that world hunger should well and truly be a thing of the past, because grain that would otherwise go to feeding animals could be consumed by humans. According to the American research journal Environmental Science & Technology Journal, meat production technology using animal cells will reduce the demand for energy by 200%, releasing 25 times fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and using 100 times less land compared to traditional meat production methods.