Japanese scientists want to make lab-grown wagyu affordable to the masses within five years

wagyu lab grown

Japanese scientists have successfully recreated Wagyu beef — complete with its distinctive fat marbling — in a laboratory using 3D printer technology. 

Quest for cheaper Wagyu: Osaka University researchers used 3-D bioprinters to reproduce Japan’s famous steak, paving the way for a much more affordable variety of the expensive steak, reported Reuters

  • The research team, led by Michiya Matsusaki, conducted experiments using bovine stem cells to reproduce the marbling in a solid steak-like piece. Previous attempts to create cultured meat have typically produced a minced form.
  • The current method takes about three to four weeks to form a cubic centimeter of lab-grown Wagyu. Generating a single gram of the meat currently costs about 10,000 yen (approximately $87.50).
  • According to Matsusaki, the process could eventually produce lab-grown Wagyu that would look and taste like the original as the techniques and efficiency improve.
  • “If we are able to quickly produce a lot of meat from a few cells, there’s a chance we can better respond to food and protein shortage issues in the future,” Matsusaki was quoted as saying. 
  • Matsusaki estimates that through automation, they will be able to create lab-grown Wagyu that can be marketable for the general public within five years. 

Why it matters: Wagyu beef, which comes from black cattle cultivated in Western Japan’s Kobe area, is among the most expensive meats in the world, reported Business Insider.

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  • A pound of high-grade wagyu can cost up to $200, and the cows it is sourced from can sell for as much as $30,000 each.
  • The beef is prized for its rich fat marbling, which comes from the evenly distributed fat throughout the muscles of the Japanese cow breeds. 
  • Adding to its rarity, the Japanese government has placed Wagyu production under strict regulation to protect its quality and value.

In addition to cheaper Wagyu, Matsusaki noted that his lab’s bioprinting and culture techniques could later be used for human medicine. 

Featured Image via Steffen Zimmermann

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