Researchers have found a way to get more flavour into cultured meat by growing fat at scale in the lab
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Spotted: Cultured meat has been gaining ground recently, with several startups developing cell-grown chicken, beef, pork, and fish. Most of these consist of unstructured mixtures of cells that are formed into products like chicken nuggets. Cooking releases compounds that add flavour to meat, and most of these originate from fat. Recreating the flavour of meat means adding cultured fat, and this has proven harder to reproduce.
Producing cultured fat is difficult because, as the fat grows, the cells in the middle become starved of oxygen and nutrients. To prevent this, it is necessary to also grow a large-scale vascular network in the lab. Now, a group of researchers at Tufts University has taken a new approach. The researchers first grew fat cells in a flat, two-dimensional layer, then harvested those cells and aggregated them into a three-dimensional mass using a food-grade binder.
The team then tested the aggregated fat cells and found they could also fine-tune the texture of the cultured fat to make it resemble the real-life texture of meat fat. The team’s research also suggests it might be possible to supplement the cultured fat cells with a mix of lipids, so the finished product more closely matches the composition of specific meats.
In a press release, senior author David Kaplan of the research explains: “This method of aggregating cultured fat cells with binding agents can be translated to large-scale production of cultured fat tissue in bioreactors – a key obstacle in the development of cultured meat.”
The cultured meat market is growing rapidly, and so are the number of innovations in this space. Springwise has spotted a number of these, including a plant-based growth factor that could be used to develop entirely animal-free meat and cultured seafood grown without the need for added growth factors.
Written By: Lisa Magloff