Scientists have taken muscle and fat stem cells from cows and transplanted them into grains of rice to create a new food product that they claimed could supply protein with a lower carbon footprint than beef.


The researchers at Yonsei University in South Korea — in their study published in the science journal Matter — said the “cell-cultured protein rice” could prove to become a superfood.

To make the experimental food, scientists covered the traditional rice grains in fish gelatin and seeded them with skeletal muscle and fat stem cells which were then grown in the laboratory.

The experts thereafter cultured the muscle, fat, and gelatin-smothered rice for nine to 11 days.


At the end of the cultivation period, the researchers tested the rice to study its structure and nutritional content. They found that the beef-rice hybrid was both firmer and more brittle than regular rice.

The researchers said the “meaty rice” — which is pink in colour — boasts an 8% increase in protein and a 7% increase in fat compared to regular rice.

Although the product is not yet approved for consumers, it has however been included in a growing list of lab-grown meat and alternative proteins being developed in a bid to reduce the climate impact of meat and dairy.


The researchers estimate that their creation should only release less than 6.27 kg (13.82 lb) of CO2 per 100 g of protein, compared to beef’s 50 kg (110 lb).

“Imagine obtaining all the nutrients we need from cell-cultured protein rice,” Sohyeon Park, the lead author of the research, said in a news release on Wednesday.

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

Aside from making food more sustainable and affordable, the researchers said the beef rice may serve as “relief for famine, military ration, or even space food in the future”.


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