Chinese scientists have found a new way to make a lot of meatballs in a lab.

South China Morning Post (SCMP) revealed that a research partnership between two Chinese institutes led to the development of lab-grown pig meatballs with more protein and less fat than those prepared from normal meat.

Much more sustainably, lab-grown meat is regarded a potential alternative to sourcing animal foods. Estimates indicate that culturing meat in the laboratory uses relatively little land and can significantly aid in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with conventional animal husbandry.

In December 2020, the Singapore Food Agency will allow the sale of the first cultured meat products, with similar approvals anticipated in other nations. To produce cultured meat, scientists must cultivate animal cells in vast quantities in the laboratory. More significantly, cultured meat must have the same texture and flavor as actual meat.

How did researchers accomplish this?
Researchers at Tsinghua University and Nanjing Agricultural University in China independently cultivated muscle cells and fat cells in the lab before combining them in a 3D-printed mold. They then utilized an enzyme to make meatballs on a centimeter size.

The cells were grown on a gelatin-based 3D microcarrier that was edible and permeable. The micro-carrier also functions as a scaffold for cell expansion, which the researchers discovered occurred at an accelerated rate. In comparison to prior investigations, in which expansion rates were 10-fold over a seven-day period, the researchers discovered that their micro-carrier resulted in a 20-fold expansion over the same time period.

The researchers also compared the nutritional value of their cultured meat to that of shizitou, a popular Chinese meatball dish. Their investigation revealed that the cultured meatballs were composed of 70% protein, 4% fat, 6% carbohydrates, and important minerals such as zinc, calcium, and iron.

Although it contained less calories, the packaged meatball dish featured only one-fifth as much protein and three times as much fat.

Large scale manufacturing
The procedures employed by the researchers also facilitate the mass production of these meatballs. Before combining the two cell kinds with the unique enzyme and forming them into meatballs, the two cell types can be cultivated in separate bioreactors at scale.

Meatballs and sausages are often easier to produce than lab-grown beef, which required a specific appearance in order to pass for the real thing. The research team at Nanjing Agricultural University just created their first cultured pork in 2019. One year later, the team was able to generate 50 grams (1.7 ounces) of the meat in 20 days.

Now, in a handful of years, the researchers have created meat substitutes that resemble the genuine thing and are attempting to mass-produce them.

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