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South Korean scientists mention ‘beef rice’ as a protein source for the future

A woman puts beef on a plate at a Korean barbecue restaurant in Seoul on March 8.

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean researchers have grown beef cells in rice grains, in what they say is an important step toward achieving a sustainable, affordable and environmentally friendly protein source that could replace agricultural livestock with meat.

Prof. Jinkee Hong of Yonsei University in Seoul, who led the study published this month in the journal Matter, said the “beef rice” is the first product of its kind. It uses grain particles as a basis for growing animal muscle and fat cells.

In the study, rice grains were treated with enzymes to create an optimal environment for cell growth, and then infused with bovine cells that were grown to obtain the final hybrid product, which resembles a pink grain of rice.

The Yonsei team is not the first to work on laboratory meat products. Companies around the world have launched cultured meat; one of the latest involves plant-based chicken and soy-raised eel, which is being marketed in Singapore.

Hong’s team said rice has a safety advantage over soy or nuts because fewer people are allergic to it.

“If successfully developed into food products, cultured beef rice could serve as a sustainable protein source, especially in environments where traditional livestock farming is impractical,” he said.

The beef rice contains approximately 8% more protein and 7% more fat than conventional rice. Hong noted that the protein is 18% animal, making it a rich source of essential amino acids.

At a price of about $2 per kilogram and with a much smaller carbon footprint than traditional beef products, cultured beef rice could compete on supermarket shelves, Hong said.

Hong said challenges remain from a technical point of view and in terms of convincing customers with taste and texture.

Keum Dong-kyu, who recently tasted the rice beef at a Korean barbecue restaurant in Seoul, said the idea is innovative.

“But honestly, I don’t think it can mimic the juiciness or texture of real beef,” Keum said.

Christian Krammel, visiting from Germany, was more positive.

“Right now it doesn’t compare to beef yet, but seeing as the research is in its early stages, I’d say it’s a great step forward,” Krammel said.

South Korea
Hybrid beef rice sits on a table in the Reuters studio in Seoul.


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