Article image

Frankenfood: Beef grown inside rice cells that is tasty, healthy, and affordable

Korean scientists have pioneered a novel food technology that combines the traditional staple of rice with lab-grown animal cells, introducing “cultured beef rice” as a viable meat alternative for a planet in crisis.

In a world grappling with the dual challenges of environmental sustainability and ethical food production, this fascinating innovation emerged from South Korea, promising a new dawn for alternative protein sources.

This technology aims to mitigate the environmental and ethical quandaries posed by industrial agriculture while offering a nutritious and flavorful alternative that could revolutionize our dietary habits.

The science of cultured beef rice

This new study details how scientists have successfully grown animal muscle and fat cells within rice grains, creating a hybrid food that could significantly reduce our carbon footprint while providing an affordable protein source.

The essence of this breakthrough lies in its potential to harness the nutritional benefits of rice, already a high-nutrient food, and elevate them by integrating the protein-rich cells of livestock.

Sohyeon Park, the study’s first author, under the mentorship of Jinkee Hong at Yonsei University, envisions a future where our nutritional needs are met through such cell-cultured protein rice.

The science behind this marvel involves mimicking the natural growth environment of animal cells by leveraging the structural properties of rice grains.

These grains, characterized by their porosity and organized structure, offer an ideal scaffold for housing animal cells, which are nourished and grown to maturity within this unique medium.

Nutritional power and traditional texture

The process begins with coating rice grains in fish gelatin, a safe and edible substance that enhances cell adherence.

Following this, cow muscle and fat stem cells are introduced into the grains, where they are cultured over a period of 9 to 11 days.

The result is a safe, allergy-friendly cultured beef rice that promises a new frontier in food technology.

Through rigorous food industry analyses, the researchers discovered that this hybrid rice boasts a protein content 8% higher and a fat content 7% greater than that of regular rice.

Notably, its texture is firmer and its flavor profile varies according to the ratio of muscle to fat cells, offering a diverse palate ranging from beef and almond to cream, butter, and coconut oil.

Environmental impact of cultured beef rice

The environmental benefits of this innovation cannot be overstated. Traditional livestock production is resource-intensive, consuming vast amounts of water and contributing significantly to greenhouse gas emissions.

In stark contrast, cultured beef rice presents a sustainable alternative, producing protein with a carbon footprint dramatically lower than that of conventional beef.

Preliminary estimates suggest that for every 100 g of protein, this hybrid rice could reduce CO2 emissions to less than 6.27 kg, compared to the 49.89 kg associated with beef production.

Moreover, the economic implications are equally promising. While traditional beef retails at $14.88 per kilogram, cultured beef rice could be produced for as little as $2.23 per kilogram.

This cost-effectiveness, combined with low food safety risks and a relatively straightforward production process, positions cultured beef rice as a viable commercial product in the near future.

The research team is now focused on optimizing the growth conditions within the rice grains to further enhance the nutritional value of this hybrid food.

Cultured beef rice: Global impact of harvesting hope

Their success has not only exceeded expectations but also opened up a world of possibilities for rice-based hybrid foods.

From providing relief in famine-stricken areas to serving as military rations or space food, the potential applications are vast and varied.

In summary, as we look toward the horizon of food innovation, cultured beef rice stands as a testament to human ingenuity and our commitment to sustainability.

This important development promises to enrich our diets with a more nutritious and environmentally friendly protein source while setting a new standard for the global food industry.

By blending the ancient staple of rice with the latest in cellular agriculture, scientists offer a solution that could significantly reduce our ecological footprint, combat food scarcity, and open up new avenues for culinary exploration.

As we move forward, cultured beef rice embodies the potential to reshape our relationship with food, offering a sustainable, affordable, and versatile option that aligns with the pressing environmental and ethical demands of our time.

The full study was published in the journal Matter.


Like what you read? Subscribe to our newsletter for engaging articles, exclusive content, and the latest updates.


Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and


News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day