When I think of KFC and its largely unchanging menu of fried chicken, I do not immediately think of innovation. However a new collaboration forged between the fast-food company and Russia-based bioprinting firm 3D Bioprinting Solutions might just change my mind. The partners are working together to develop the world’s first laboratory-produced chicken nuggets. The 3D printed nuggets are expected to be similar in taste and appearance to KFC’s original product, but will have the benefit of being more environmentally friendly to produce.
The bioprinted chicken nugget project is already underway, and the unlikely partners plan to have a final product ready for testing by this fall. The effort is part of KFC’s mission to create a “restaurant of the future” which leverages state-of-the-art technologies like 3D bioprinting to overcome solutions in the food industry today: such as finding more eco-friendly alternatives to traditional meat.
“At KFC, we are closely monitoring all of the latest trends and innovations and doing our best to keep up with the times by introducing advanced technologies to our restaurant networks,” said Raisa Polyakova, General Manager of KFC Russia & CIS. “Crafted meat products are the next step in the development of our “restaurant of the future” concept. Our experiment in testing 3D bioprinting technology to create chicken products can also help address several looming global problems. We are glad to contribute to its development and are working to make it available to thousands of people in Russia and, if possible, around the world.”
3D Bioprinting Solutions, a company well known for its bioprinting-in-space projects, will leverage its technology to create lab-grown chicken meat. The process uses chicken cells and plant material to generate an edible product that closely mimics the taste and texture of chicken meat, all without having to kill a chicken. When the lab-grown chicken nugget is ready, KFC will provide all its signature ingredients, including breading and its famous secret herbs and spices.
The bioprinted meat will reportedly have the same microelements as traditional chicken meat but eliminate the need for additives that have become a conventional part of animal farming. The cell-based chicken products will thus be “cleaner”, as well as more ethical, both in terms of animal care and the environment. According to a life cycle study conducted by the American Environmental Science & Technology Journal, growing meat from cells (rather than harvesting it from live animals) can reduce energy consumption by over half and for a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
“3D bioprinting technologies, initially widely recognized in medicine, are nowadays gaining popularity in producing foods such as meat,” added Yusef Khesuani, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of 3D Bioprinting Solutions. “In the future, the rapid development of such technologies will allow us to make 3D printed meat products more accessible and we are hoping that the technology created as a result of our cooperation with KFC will help accelerate the launch of cell-based meat products on the market.”
3D printing technologies, once a novelty for printed edibles, are transitioning to a more viable solution for food and meat production. Last month, for instance, Redefine Meat unveiled the world’s first Alt-Steak plant-based products, made using its patent-pending 3D meat printing technology. The faux-meat product will be market tested at a select number of high-end restaurants later this year.