lab grown steak from Aleph Farms lab grown steak from Aleph Farms If you love steak but hate how it's made, this could be your next best meal. (Photo: Aleph Farms)

Coming soon: Order a steak, hold the meat

Lab-grown meat looks and tastes like the real thing, and it's 100% slaughter-free.

If beef is what's for dinner, does it have to be the kind that actually came from a cow? What if it was grown in a lab from the cells of a living animal, without the need for devoting vast tracts of land, water, feed and other resources to raise cattle for meat?

A startup in Israel called Aleph Farms says it's kicking off a revolution in food technology: the first cell-grown minute steak, delivering the full experience of meat with the appearance, shape and texture of beef cuts.

Didier Toubia, Aleph Farms' co-founder, is a graduate of Tel Aviv University and Chicago's Northwestern University. "We're shaping the future of the meat industry – literally," he said. "We've transformed the vision into reality by growing a steak under controlled conditions. The initial products are still relatively thin, but the technology we developed marks a true breakthrough and a great leap forward in producing a cell-grown steak."

The Wall Street Journal sent a reporter to Tel Aviv to taste it. Here's that video:

In addition to its meat-like flavor and texture, Aleph Farms' steak takes only a minute or so to cook. Amir Ilan, chef of the restaurant Paris Texas in Israel, said that gives the product "high culinary potential."

"For me, it is a great experience to eat meat that has the look and feel of beef but has been grown without antibiotics and causes no harm to animals or the environment ... it can be readily incorporated into top-shelf preparations or served in premium-casual restaurants, trendy cafes, bistros or other eateries."

Aleph Farms is a member of The Kitchen, a food-tech incubator developed by hummus maker Strauss Group Inc. and Israel's Technion Institute. The Kitchen is a hub and testing ground for food-tech startups and products to build support and capital and, in the words of VP Amir Zaidman, "redefine the food industry."

The Kitchen FoodTech Hub has a team of four that work with the startups on a daily basis. The Kitchen FoodTech Hub has a team of four that work with the startups on a daily basis. (Photo: Tal Shahar)

"We want to help the food industry – not only with the food supply, but to make it more efficient and less damaging to the environment. So we want to address all of these issues – environmental issues and reducing food waste. For example, in the Western World 35 percent of the food is wasted, so we need to improve packaging and shelf life," said Zaidman.

Food tech's reach is constantly stretching and evolving to meet a growing need. That's no more evident than in Israel, where food tech reigns supreme with a litany of startups like Aleph Farms and products trying to make their way into kitchens around the world.

A startup called DouxMatok created a sugar that makes the brain think it's consuming more sugar than it actually is, thereby reducing the amount of sugar needed. It's done by coating fibers in the food with sugar or polyol molecules, and then “transporting” those clusters of sugar molecules and unloading them on the sweet taste receptors.

Then there are the folks at Hebrew University, who in 2017 unveiled a concept for using a 3D printer to create, design and print a meal. The concept, though several years away from being implemented, already has a basic ingredient: nano-cellulose, a natural, edible fiber that could be altered to specific textures and bound to other substances like proteins, carbohydrates and fats to create real, fully cooked and quite delicious meals.

"This has the potential to address a variety of challenges facing the field of nutrition, from the demand for personalized food for people with diseases such as celiac or diabetes, personal nutritional habits such as vegetarians, to addressing the problem of lack of food in developing countries," said Yaron Daniely, president and CEO of Yissum, a tech company working in conjunction with Hebrew University. "The ability to automatically prepare, mix, form and cook personalized food in one device, is a truly revolutionary concept."

3d printed pear You could be eating dinner from your 3D printer one day. (Photo: Alex_Traksel/Shutterstock)

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Coming soon: Order a steak, hold the meat
Lab-grown meat looks and tastes like the real thing, and it's 100% slaughter-free.