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  • Khushboo Pareek

Korean scientists create 'beef-based' rice

Researchers at South Korea's Yonsei University have created a hybrid rice variant infused with beef, marking a novel advancement at the intersection of food science and biotechnology.

The study involved engineering of lab-grown rice grains to include plant components along with cells extracted from cow muscle and fat. The experiment resulted in a distinctive combination of vegetable and meat properties.

The report, published in the Matter, a Cell Press journal, read, "A strategy to develop a nutrient-rich hybrid food using rice grains functionalized with nano coating and bovine cells for a sustainable food system is reported. Rice grains are safe food ingredients with a low incidence of allergy and have a nutritional profile and structure suited for 3D cell culture."

According to researchers, rice displays a vibrant pink colour, a characteristic often observed when meat is incorporated into the mix.

The research methodology involved coating each rice grain with fish gelatin to aid in the attachment of meat cells.

After that the scientists inserted cow muscle and fat stem cells into each grain and left it to culture in a petri dish.

According to the researchers, the internal structure of rice grains mimics the "biological scaffolds" found in meat cells, providing an optimal environment for cell growth and nourishment delivery.

As the meat cells develop both on the surface and within the rice grain, the final product emerges after approximately ten days.

The resulting rice grains boast a flavour reminiscent of beef sushi, reflecting the ingredients used in the process.

Sohyeon Park, the primary author of the study, remarked, "Imagine obtaining all the nutrients we need from cell-cultured protein rice."

She added, "Rice already has a high nutrient level, but adding cells from livestock can further boost it."

The team aims to provide a cost-effective and eco-friendly protein source with an aim to reduce carbon emissions compared to traditional beef production.

The team also envisions a future where livestock might not be needed at all. Their goal is to create a line of cells that can continuously divide and grow over extended periods. This would allow them to rely on this cell line instead of using actual cows for sourcing.

The concept is still in the research phase, so pink beef rice won't be appearing on restaurant menus anytime soon.

The team is currently fine-tuning the growth process to enhance the nutritional value of the rice grains.

It is also aiming to enhance the taste, texture, and colour of the product.

"It could one day serve as food relief for famine, military ration, or even space food," Park stated in a press release.

"To summarise, this rice grain-based meat should be considered a candidate for future food that meets all the criteria for food safety, cell content, nutritional value, and commercial potential.

"This technology is expected to develop into a system capable of self-producing food in the future and achieve a sustainable food system for the food crisis," the release read.

The study was backed by the Bio & Medical Technology Development Program of the National Research Foundation.


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