Is this future of food?

September 8, 2023

There is something fishy about today’s feature, but first a little background. Like way back to when Eli Whitney developed the cotton gin machine that mechanically separated cotton fibers from the seeds—the first of several automated iterations that revolutionized the production of cotton. Many more inventions such as refrigeration, printing presses, steam engines and cars  followed during the machine age paving the way for technology and production as we know it today, including the onset of 3D printing initially used to make prototypes in the early 1980s.

Today the merits of 3D printing are vast with successful applications in a considerable number of industries from housing construction to medical technology. Many homers have been hit with this new knowhow, but I’m not sure about 3D printing of pastries and pizza which could be a stretch for my picky tastebuds. As for the idea of 3D printed fish fillets, I’m calling it a ‘foul ball.’

There are two companies that are very excited to bring their new fish fillets to market–Steakholder Foods in Israel and Umami Meats in Singapore. According to a CNN report about this latest techno phenom, their “secret sauce” info claims that actual grouper fish cells are lab cultivated and then “fed” to the 3D printer to create fish fillets that look and taste just like real fish and are said to also be “clean and antibiotics-free.” That’s quite a mouthful which for some could be just a bit hard to digest.

Regarding the business side of this fishing expedition, the fish fillets are more costly to produce compared to plant-based chicken and beef products, and there are also regulatory requirements that need to be met. Yet both companies are optimistically reporting a 2024 launch date in Singapore; it will be a few years before the fish fillets are available in the U.S.

The idea of 3D printing fascinates me, and I love learning about the latest applications of this technology. Still, it’s hard to picture a house or a bone made with 3D printed materials. I’d love to actually be on site and watch the process in person although I don’t feel the same about manufactured food since I prefer mine “au natural.” Facts are one thing, but personal preferences are something different. When it comes to food, just like some may call raisins fruit while others might call them candy, for now I’m sticking with the real thing—that my fish is marinated and grilled. However, just like the automation of cotton picking, I could be eating 3D printed fish someday.

Published by Orange County Register, September 8, 2023


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