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Rice made out of beef is the food of the future

To make the hybrid rice, the researchers first coated it with fish gelatine to make it easier for beef cells to latch on

Nilima Marshall
Thursday 15 February 2024 11:43 GMT
Related video: Aerial views of pollination of hybrid rice in S China

Scientists have grown beef cells in rice grains for the first time.

Researchers in South Korea say their cultured beef rice could offer a more affordable proteinfood source – with a smaller carbon footprint.

Describing the “nutritious and flavourful hybrid food”, they said their hybrid rice has 8 per cent more protein and 7 per cent more fat compared to regular rice.

Scientists said their hybrid rice has 8% more protein and 7% more fat compared to regular rice (Yonsei University/PA Wire)

The scientists said that for every 100g of protein produced, hybrid rice is estimated to release less than 6.27kg of carbon dioxide, while beef releases eight times more at 49.9kg.

They said if their hybrid rice was to be commercialised, it could cost around £1.77 ($2.23) per kg, while beef is six times more expensive at £11.85.

Is rice beef the food of the future? (Yonsei University/PA Wire)

Sohyeon Park, of Yonsei University in South Korea, said: “We usually obtain the protein we need from livestock, but livestock production consumes a lot of resources and water and releases a lot of greenhouse gas.”

She added: “Imagine obtaining all the nutrients we need from cell-cultured protein rice.

“Rice already has a high nutrient level, but adding cells from livestock can further boost it.”

To make the hybrid rice, the researchers first coated it with fish gelatine to make it easier for beef cells latch onto it.

They then added cow muscle and fat stem cells to the grains and left to culture in the petri dish for up to 11 days.

The researchers claimed their cell-cultured beef rice met food safety requirements and had a low risk of triggering food allergies.

Ms Park said: “I didn’t expect the cells to grow so well in the rice. Now I see a world of possibilities for this grain-based hybrid food.

“It could one day serve as food relief for famine, military ration or even space food.”

Scientists have grown beef cells in rice grains for the first time, resulting in what they describe as a ‘nutritious and flavourful hybrid food' (Yonsei University/PA Wire)

As part of the next steps, the researchers said they are planning to further boost the nutritional value of their hybrid rice by creating better conditions in the grain for both muscle and fat cells to thrive.

Commenting on the research Neil Ward, an agri-food and climate specialist and professor of rural and regional development at the University of East Anglia, said: “There has been a surge of interest over the past five years in developing alternatives to conventional meat with lower environmental impacts.

“This research suggests the possibility of a hybrid rice which provides animal nutrients that involves almost eight times less greenhouse gas emissions and at less than one-sixth of the cost.

“This line of research holds promise for the development of healthier and more climate-friendly diets in future.

“While data on cost and climate impact look very positive, a critical test is around public appetite for these sorts of lab-developed foods.

“With lab-based alternative meats in general, the greatest potential is probably in replacing processed meats rather than prime cuts.”

The research is published in the journal Matter.

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