Close this search box.

CNN: Researchers find ‘a new way to make lab-grown meat taste like the real deal’ – ‘It may look like pink Jello but scientists hope this new invention could revolutionize meat’

By  and , CNN

South Korean researchers say they've developed a way to make lab-grown meat taste and smell like conventional meat.

CNN Would you like that burger medium rare, well-done, or lab-grown?

Researchers in South Korea say they’ve developed a new way to make lab-grown meat taste like the real deal. It may look like a transparent, bubble gum pink-colored disc, but scientists hope it could revolutionize the meat on people’s plates.

Lab-grown meat — also called cultured meat or cell-based meat — is emerging as an alternative to conventional meat, offering the same nutritional benefits and sensory experience without the carbon footprint

It’s made by cultivating animal cells directly in a lab grown on 3D structures called “scaffolds,” which allow the cells to multiply, eliminating the need to raise and farm animals.

Scientists have created everything from cultured meatballs to 3D printed steaks. While some previous iterations of cultured beef have mimicked the look and feel of the real thing, according to a new study, they’ve overlooked a key element: taste.

Scientists have developed a "flavor switchable scaffold" to mimic the enticing flavor and aroma of grilled beef.

But in the study, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, researchers say they have cracked the code, developing a cultured meat that generates “grilled beef flavors upon cooking.”

“Flavor is the most important thing to make cultured meat be accepted as real,” Milae Lee, a co-author on the paper and a PhD student in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Seoul’s Yonsei University told CNN.

To mimic the taste of conventional meat, Lee and her colleagues recreated the flavors generated during the Maillard reaction — a chemical reaction that occurs between an amino acid and a reducing sugar when heat is added, giving a burger that delicious, charred taste.

They do this by introducing a switchable flavor compound into a gelatin-based hydrogel, to form something called a functional scaffold, which Lee described as the “basic composition of the cultured meat.”

Researchers mimicked the taste of conventional meat by recreating the flavors generated during the Maillard reaction, which gives meat a charred taste.

The flavor compound, which consists of a flavor group and two binding groups, stays in the scaffold until heated. It “switches on” when it is cooked for five minutes at a temperature of 150 degrees Celsius (302 degrees Fahrenheit), releasing meaty flavors in a replication of the Maillard reaction, Lee said.

Because the cultured meat is not yet edible, the researchers used an electronic nose, which “mimics the nosing system of humans,” Lee said, to test the aromas of the cultured meat, and see how they compare to conventional meat.

For this study, the researchers focused on adding “meaty” and “savory” flavors, Lee said, but the flavor agent could also be adapted to incorporate other flavors — like the fatty-ness that comes from a juicy rib-eye, for example.

The research focused on the science behind the taste of lab-grown meat, rather than commercialization of the process, which is why the scientists used non-food grade substances. But they believe strategy can be applied to conventional edible substances, Lee said.