Fact Check

Dutch Factory Is 3D-Printing Meat from Stem Cells?

Various social posts and emails we received included the detail that this meat was already being sold to consumers.

Published March 29, 2024

3D-printed tenderloin. (Redefine Meat)
3D-printed tenderloin. (Image Via Redefine Meat)
Claim:
A factory in the Netherlands, Redefine Meat, is 3D-printing meat cultivated from animal stem cells and sold in restaurants in Germany.
What's True

A factory in the Netherlands, owned by Israeli company Redefine Meat, is indeed 3D-printing all sorts of meat cuts, recreating the texture and feel of actual meat, and selling it to restaurants across Europe (not just Germany) and Israel ...

What's False

... However, Redefine Meat's products are not made of animal stem cells but plants.

A series of social media posts in early 2024 claimed a factory in the Netherlands was producing 3D-printed meat based on stem cells taken from animals. The earliest of these posts we identified appeared on Reddit on Jan. 10, 2024. It said the company Redefine Meat would be distributing its products to restaurants in Germany: 

The first comment on that post, written by the original author, including the following detailed text, quoting Brooke Becher (emphasis ours):

"To begin the 3D-printed meat process, scientists biopsy a batch sample of animal stem cells depending on the desired type of meat — beef, pork, poultry or even fish. These cells then undergo an in vitro proliferation process, bathing in a nourishing, nutrient-dense serum within a climate-controlled bioreactor. Over the course of several weeks, these cells multiply, interact and differentiate into the fat and muscle cells that make up bio-ink. Then, a robotic arm uses a nozzle to dispense this paste-like, cultured meat filament in fine layers atop one another. The arm follows the instructions of an uploaded digital file using computer-aided design, or CAD, software in order to replicate the correct shape and structure of the intended meat. 3D-printed meat material must be viscous yet firm enough to reproduce a structural model complete with accurate tissue vascularization, depending on the type and cut of meat." 

Written by Brooke Becher Aug 09 2023

The same text was then posted to Facebook on Jan. 26, 2024, without attribution. This text, which seems to be copypasta, appeared several times on Facebook in late March 2024, both in English and translated into Spanish. Several commenters reacted with disgust on one English version of the post. "Gross," exclaimed one. "Soylent pink," said another.

Redefine Meat

It is true that a factory in the Netherlands is 3D-printing meat. It is owned by the Israel-based Redefine Meat. The company, however, does not use stem cells or any other animal product to manufacture the meat. The meat is made out of plant ingredients such as pea protein and soy. In the Frequently Asked Questions page of its website, the company says:

All Redefine Meat™ products are free from animal-based ingredients, thus suitable for vegans. In fact, we believe that everyone should be able to enjoy new-meat, and they are aimed at omnivores, flexitarians, vegetarians or vegans.

The company's method of production is so unusual that several journalistic outlets have reported on it, including Reuters:

The manufacturing process allows the company to create different cuts of meat with their associated textures and mouth feels, as well as different flavors.

British journalist and environmental activist George Monbiot tried one of the products and shared on X (formerly Twitter) [archived]:

According to Just Food — a trade publication — the company sold its products in about 4,000 locations in restaurants and shops across Europe (not just Germany) and in Israel as of September 2023. We have contacted the company for more details on these numbers and we will update this story if we hear back.

Stem Cell Confusion

When we searched the name "Brooke Becher" along with the keywords "stem cell" and "Redefine meat," we found an article that may be at the root of the confusion about the basic ingredients of Redefine Meat's products. The article, published on Built In (a tech industry trade publication), was written originally by Becher and updated by author Brennan Whitfield in March 2024.

The article discusses 3D-printed meat and lab-grown meat made out of stem cells. The text in the viral posts quotes a paragraph from this article, taken out of context.

The story proceeds to list several makers of meat products developed in labs using stem cells. They include:

  • GOOD Meat in California, which makes lab-grown chicken, without using 3D printing;
  • Aleph Farms in Israel, which makes lab-cultivated beef steaks, without the use of 3D printers.

Both GOOD Meat and Aleph Farm have begun to sell their products.

Meanwhile, a team at Osaka University in Japan has been working on developing stem-cell-grown, 3D-printed wagyu beef:

Lastly, Steakholder Foods in Israel is developing 3D printers and plant-based "inks" designed for food production to mimic fish and meat. But it is also attempting to create a way to 3D-print cultivated meat products. This video demonstrates the process Steakholder Foods is developing: 

Neither Osaka University's wagyu beef nor Steakholder Foods' 3D-printed meat product are being sold to consumers yet.

The Built In story also mentions Redefine Meat, but clarifies the company's products are plant-based.

Sources

Hambleton, Julie. 'A Factory in Holland Is 3D Printing 500 Tonnes of Steaks a Month'. The Hearty Soul, 5 Jan. 2024, https://theheartysoul.com/redefine-meat-3d-printed-meat-holland-factory/.

Koltrowitz, Silke, and Lee Marzel. 'Redefine Meat Strikes Partnership to Boost 3D-Printed Meat Sales in Europe'. Reuters, 13 Oct. 2022. www.reuters.com, https://www.reuters.com/markets/deals/redefine-meat-strikes-partnership-boost-3d-printed-meat-sales-europe-2022-10-13/.

Racz, Eszter. 'Redefine Meat to Target More Retail Customers in Europe'. Just Food, 21 Sept. 2023, https://www.just-food.com/news/redefine-meat-to-target-more-retail-customers-in-europe/.

What Is 3D-Printed Meat? | Built In. https://builtin.com/3d-printing/3d-printed-meat. Accessed 28 Mar. 2024.

'Cultured Meat Is The New Way To Steak'. Aleph Farms, https://aleph-farms.com/our-recipe/. Accessed 29 Mar. 2024.

'FAQ'. Steakholder Foods, https://www.steakholderfoods.com/faq. Accessed 29 Mar. 2024.

'GOOD Meat | Process'. GOOD Meat, https://www.goodmeat.co/process. Accessed 29 Mar. 2024.

'Raising the Steaks: First 3D-Bioprinted Structured Wagyu Beef-like Meat Unveiled'. ResOU, https://resou.osaka-u.ac.jp/en/research/2021/20210824_4. Accessed 29 Mar. 2024.

Anna Rascouët-Paz is based in Brooklyn, fluent in numerous languages and specializes in science and economic topics.

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