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Potential Development of Sustainable 3D-Printed Meat Analogues: A Review

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To mitigate the threat of climate change driven by livestock meat production, a multifaceted approach that incorporates dietary changes, innovative product development, advances in technologies, and reductions in food wastes/losses is proposed. The emerging technology of 3D printing (3DP) has been recognized for its unprecedented capacity to fabricate food products with intricate structures and reduced material cost and energy. For sustainable 3DP of meat substitutes, the possible materials discussed are derived from in vitro cell culture, meat byproducts/waste, insects, and plants. These material-based approaches are analyzed from their potential environmental effects, technological viability, and consumer acceptance standpoints. Although skeletal muscles and skin are bioprinted for medical applications, they could be utilized as meat without the additional printing of vascular networks. The impediments to bioprinting of meat are lack of food-safe substrates/materials, cost-effectiveness, and scalability. The sustainability of bioprinting could be enhanced by the utilization of generic/universal components or scaffolds and optimization of cell sourcing and fabrication logistics. Despite the availability of several plants and their byproducts and some start-up ventures attempting to fabricate food products, 3D printing of meat analogues remains a challenge. From various insects, powders, proteins (soluble/insoluble), lipids, and fibers are produced, which—in different combinations and at optimal concentrations—can potentially result in superior meat substitutes. Valuable materials derived from meat byproducts/wastes using low energy methods could reduce waste production and offset some greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Apart from printer innovations (speed, precision, and productivity), rational structure of supply chain and optimization of material flow and logistic costs can improve the sustainability of 3D printing. Irrespective of the materials used, perception-related challenges exist for 3D-printed food products. Consumer acceptance could be a significant challenge that could hinder the success of 3D-printed meat analogs.
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sustainability
Review
Potential Development of Sustainable 3D-Printed Meat
Analogues: A Review
Karna Ramachandraiah


Citation: Ramachandraiah, K.
Potential Development of Sustainable
3D-Printed Meat Analogues: A
Review. Sustainability 2021,13, 938.
https://doi.org/10.3390/su13020938
Received: 11 December 2020
Accepted: 12 January 2021
Published: 18 January 2021
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Copyright: © 2021 by the author.
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Attribution (CC BY) license (https://
creativecommons.org/licenses/by/
4.0/).
Department of Food Science and Biotechnology, College of Life Science, Sejong University, Seoul 05006, Korea;
karna@sejong.ac.kr; Tel.: +82-2-6935-2465; Fax: +82-2-3408-4319
Abstract:
To mitigate the threat of climate change driven by livestock meat production, a multi-
faceted approach that incorporates dietary changes, innovative product development, advances in
technologies, and reductions in food wastes/losses is proposed. The emerging technology of 3D
printing (3DP) has been recognized for its unprecedented capacity to fabricate food products with
intricate structures and reduced material cost and energy. For sustainable 3DP of meat substitutes,
the possible materials discussed are derived from
in vitro
cell culture, meat byproducts/waste, in-
sects, and plants. These material-based approaches are analyzed from their potential environmental
effects, technological viability, and consumer acceptance standpoints. Although skeletal muscles
and skin are bioprinted for medical applications, they could be utilized as meat without the addi-
tional printing of vascular networks. The impediments to bioprinting of meat are lack of food-safe
substrates/materials, cost-effectiveness, and scalability. The sustainability of bioprinting could be
enhanced by the utilization of generic/universal components or scaffolds and optimization of cell
sourcing and fabrication logistics. Despite the availability of several plants and their byproducts
and some start-up ventures attempting to fabricate food products, 3D printing of meat analogues
remains a challenge. From various insects, powders, proteins (soluble/insoluble), lipids, and fibers
are produced, which—in different combinations and at optimal concentrations—can potentially
result in superior meat substitutes. Valuable materials derived from meat byproducts/wastes us-
ing low energy methods could reduce waste production and offset some greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions. Apart from printer innovations (speed, precision, and productivity), rational structure of
supply chain and optimization of material flow and logistic costs can improve the sustainability of
3D printing. Irrespective of the materials used, perception-related challenges exist for 3D-printed
food products. Consumer acceptance could be a significant challenge that could hinder the success
of 3D-printed meat analogs.
Keywords: 3D printing; meat analogs; sustainability; environmental impact
1. Introduction
Climate change is a growing concern amongst several nations around the world.
The discernable impact of human-induced climate change include increases in temperature,
the frequency of droughts, rainfall intensity, flooding, and other severe weather events.
Climate change has also been projected to affect all facets of food security, which include
availability, ease of access, consumption, and stability [
1
3
]. The amount and rate of
climate change are mainly affected by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that result from
energy generation (fossil fuel combustion) and non-energy emissions (agriculture, land-use
changes, and livestock production) [
1
]. However, the contribution from the livestock sector
to the total annual anthropogenic GHG emissions is about 14.5% [
4
]. Major livestock that
contribute to this threat are cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, and chickens [
5
,
6
]. Beef is the most
problematic of all livestock because it requires large land areas and resources [
5
,
7
]. Of the to-
tal anthropogenic CH
4
, N
2
O, and CO
2
emissions, the livestock sector contributes 19%, 15%,
and 1.35%, respectively [
4
]. The direct and indirect effects of livestock production include
Sustainability 2021,13, 938. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13020938 https://www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability
Sustainability 2021,13, 938 2 of 20
food security issues, health risks, animal welfare issues, and the loss of biodiversity [
8
].
Apart from the impact of GHG from meat production, ethical issues pertaining to the
slaughter of animals are strong reasons to seek alternatives for livestock meat. As a result,
some strategies have been proposed that include dietary changes, innovative products,
technological improvements, and diminutions in food wastes and losses [9].
A well-known strategy in dietary change is meat substitution through plant materials
such as soy and peas [
10
]. Another strategy is lab meat or cultured meat production,
wherein animal muscle cells are derived from tissue cultures[
11
]. Other sources of materials
such as insects and mycoproteins have also been considered for the development of meat
analogs [
10
]. Even though the market share of plant-based meat analogs is relatively low,
the global protein analog market is expected to reach $7.5 billion USD around the year
2025 [
12
]. However, in order to counter the negative impact of livestock production, a multi-
dimensional strategy, which includes novel plant materials-derived alternatives, enhanced
waste management, and policy restructurings, has been proposed [
9
,
13
]. In this regard,
3D printing (3DP) is a promising technology that can sustainably fabricate customizable
products with intricate shapes and textures.
The 3D printing process involves a layer-by-layer deposition of materials (inks) to form
3D complex intricate structures [
14
]. The 3DP technology is suggested to have a significant
potential to lower CO
2
emissions and lifecycle energy demands of manufacturing products.
The global 3DP market is expected to expand to $230–550 billion USD by the end of
2025 [
15
,
16
]. In this review, 3D-printing-based approaches for the fabrication of meat
substitutes are explored. The four main 3D printing approaches are based on the materials
that are derived from
in vitro
cell culture (muscle cells), meat byproducts/wastes, insects,
and plants (Figure 1). While there are many studies that have focused on 3D printing of food
products, which include meat, the studies on the use of 3D printing of meat analogs are very
limited. Thus, this review focuses on the four main 3DP approaches from the standpoints
of technological feasibility, the effect on the environment, and consumer acceptance.
Sustainability 2021, 13, x FOR PEER REVIEW 2 of 22
[5,7]. Of the total anthropogenic CH4, N2O, and CO2 emissions, the livestock sector con-
tributes 19%, 15%, and 1.35%, respectively [4]. The direct and indirect effects of livestock
production include food security issues, health risks, animal welfare issues, and the loss
of biodiversity [8]. Apart from the impact of GHG from meat production, ethical issues
pertaining to the slaughter of animals are strong reasons to seek alternatives for livestock
meat. As a result, some strategies have been proposed that include dietary changes, inno-
vative products, technological improvements, and diminutions in food wastes and losses
[9].
A well-known strategy in dietary change is meat substitution through plant materials
such as soy and peas [10]. Another strategy is lab meat or cultured meat production,
wherein animal muscle cells are derived from tissue cultures [11]. Other sources of mate-
rials such as insects and mycoproteins have also been considered for the development of
meat analogs[10]. Even though the market share of plant-based meat analogs is relatively
low, the global protein analog market is expected to reach $7.5 billion USD around the
year 2025 [12]. However, in order to counter the negative impact of livestock production,
a multi-dimensional strategy, which includes novel plant materials-derived alternatives,
enhanced waste management, and policy restructurings, has been proposed [9,13]. In this
regard, 3D printing (3DP) is a promising technology that can sustainably fabricate cus-
tomizable products with intricate shapes and textures.
The 3D printing process involves a layer-by-layer deposition of materials (inks) to
form 3D complex intricate structures [14]. The 3DP technology is suggested to have a sig-
nificant potential to lower CO2 emissions and lifecycle energy demands of manufacturing
products. The global 3DP market is expected to expand to $230–550 billion USD by the
end of 2025 [15,16]. In this review, 3D-printing-based approaches for the fabrication of
meat substitutes are explored. The four main 3D printing approaches are based on the
materials that are derived from in vitro cell culture (muscle cells), meat byprod-
ucts/wastes, insects, and plants (Figure 1). While there are many studies that have focused
on 3D printing of food products, which include meat, the studies on the use of 3D printing
of meat analogs are very limited. Thus, this review focuses on the four main 3DP ap-
proaches from the standpoints of technological feasibility, the effect on the environment,
and consumer acceptance.
Figure 1. Schematic illustration of 3D printing (3DP) of meat analogs and its impact on climate
change.
Figure 1.
Schematic illustration of 3D printing (3DP) of meat analogs and its impact on climate change.
2. Overview of 3D Printing Technology
The 3DP technology, which is also known as fused deposition modeling (FDM), is a
major type of additive manufacturing (AM) that includes other types, such as selective
laser sintering (SLS) and stereolithography (SL) [
17
]. For 3D printing, a variety of materials
exist that include polymers, metals, ceramics, and biomaterials. This type of AM has
been identified as a promising manufacturing process in various industries that include
the food industry [
18
]. This relatively new technology evolved in the mid-80s due to
advances made in computing and control systems [
19
]. The 3DP technology consists
of a digital manufacturing machine that fabricates three-dimensional objects based on
designs created by a computer-aided design/manufacturing (CAD/CAM) software [
20
,
21
].
As shown in Table 1, the common methods of 3DP are extrusion, inkjet printing, binder
jetting, and bioprinting [
19
,
22
] Meat products are typically printed by an extrusion process,
Sustainability 2021,13, 938 3 of 20
wherein fibrous meat materials are extruded from a nozzle in order to form 3D structures.
Even though other methods are under development, the extruder type, which includes a
screw conveyor or syringe system that can also control the temperature, holds great promise
for the 3D printing of meat products with the desired design [
14
]. In this method, materials
are extruded in a layer-by-layer fashion via a nozzle for the geometric 3D structures.
Furthermore, extrusion usually involves the use of semi-solid pastes, such as doughs,
chocolates, and meat purees. In the case of inkjet printing, liquid materials that have low
viscosity are dispersed in a continuous jet or by using a drop-on-demand method to form
liquid foods. The binder jetting commonly employs powders (e.g., cocoa and sugar) to form
3D structures. Although bioprinting is under development, it is also accomplished through
the usual three major methods—jetting, lasers, and extrusion [
23
]. In the jetting methods,
bio-ink droplets are formed electrostatically or piezo-electrically by an inkjet printer head
that is placed over the printing bed. In laser methods, cells are deposited on matrices using
lasers. Lastly, in the extrusion system, the bio-ink is deposited through a syringe and piston
system, which extrudes the material in a layer-by-layer manner. Bioprinting has gained
attention due to its promising scope in the area of tissue engineering [23].
Table 1. Major types of 3D printing for meat analogs.
Extrusion Inkjet Printing Binder Jetting Bioprinting
Merits Availability of several
materials, simple device
Availability of several
materials, relatively
improved printing and
fabrication rate
Possibility of printing
complex 3D structures
Printing of tissue analogs
utilizing living cells
Demerits Lack of superior intricate
3DP products
Preferable for
simple designs
Lack of availability of a
wide variety of materials
Lack of food-safe
materials
Processing
Factors
Height of fabricated
products, size of nozzle
diameter, printing rate,
rate of nozzle motion
Speed of printing, size of
nozzle diameter, Height
of fabricated products,
temperature
Speed of printing, nozzle
diameter, thickness of
fabricated layers,
Head types
layer-by-layer assembly
of multiple layers,
requirement of
multi-materials
Adapted from Liu et al. [24].
3. Technological Feasibility of Meat Analog Fabrication
The development of meat substitutes is contingent upon mimicking the taste, texture,
appearance, and nutritional values of conventional (livestock) meat. Amongst these fea-
tures, recreating a meat-like texture is considered to be the most challenging [
25
]. Even 3DP
of conventional meat has been recognized to be demanding due to the fibrous make-up of
meat, which is derived mostly from the muscles of animals (livestock). Moreover, 3DP of
food products is limited due to the lack of suitable materials and the difficulty of integrating
it into traditional foods [
26
]. To overcome these challenges, two major strategies have been
suggested: (a) product reformulation [
26
] and (b) printer innovation [
27
]. Figure 2illus-
trates the major materials available for product reformulation, which can be achieved via
two approaches—modifying formulations (recipes) or including additives. Modification
of materials can be seen in the case of meat (raw), which is ground into a paste (particle
size optimization) for smooth extrusion from the nozzle. This is performed to reduce the
particle sizes of ingredients less than the size of the printer nozzle (mm to
µ
) in order to
prevent clogging [
14
]. To improve printability, additives can also be included. For example,
a plasticizer such as gelatin was included in the meat slurries made of chicken, pork,
and fish. In another study, turkey meat, mixed with bacon fat and transglutaminase
(TGase), was 3D printed and then subjected to sous-vide cooking [
26
]. Sous-vide is a
cooking technique wherein vacuum-packed food is cooked at a precisely controlled tem-
perature. In regards to the meat analogs, a wide variety of materials exists for use in the
3DP process. Some commonly used plant materials include soy, wheat, peas, and fungi.
Similarly, insects can also be used to form 3D-printed meat analogs. In one study, dried
yellow mealworms were milled to form a powder that was mixed with cereal flours, which
Sustainability 2021,13, 938 4 of 20
in turn was printed [
28
]. Biomolecules, such as proteins, fats, and fibers isolated from
insects, can also be used as building blocks. Crosslinking proteins can potentially be used
to construct novel foods. Other materials, such as mushrooms, fruit, and vegetables, have
also been 3D printed [
29
]. In the case of bioprinting, 3D structures are constructed with
bio-inks, which contain cells, biomaterials, and other molecules [
30
]. The cell contained
in bio-inks typically ranges between 10,000 to 30,000 per droplet (10–20
µ
L). The cell’s
suspended medium that is activated via photo/thermal processes mainly contains polymer
crosslinkers, such as CaCl
2
, thrombin, salt (NaCl), gelatin, and fibrinogen [
20
]. Biomaterials,
such as melt-cure polymers, hydrogels, or decellularized extracellular matrix (dECM), are
utilized in bio-inks to provide an appropriate microenvironment for the adhesion of cells
and their migration and differentiation [
30
]. However, regardless of the input material,
the final 3D product has to be a meat analog that is consumed instead of meat. 3DP
snacks, such as cookies and cakes cannot be considered as a meat analogs, even when the
ingredients were derived from meat byproducts or insects.
Sustainability 2021, 13, x FOR PEER REVIEW 5 of 22
Figure 2. Utilization of major biomaterials for the development of 3D printing (3DP) of meat analogs. Adapted from [31].
Printer-innovation-related challenges also exist for 3DP of food products. The main
technological considerations for 3DP are the 3D positioning process and the dispensing
system. The positioning system is controlled by design/manufacturing software (CAD)
that aid in the creation of 3D structures. In the case of bioprinting, it is accomplished using
multiple heads (generally), which also require several sensors to ensure the thickness of
each layer. Nevertheless, errors can occur when layer-by-layer printing is involved. Thus,
to overcome this challenge, printer heads attached with a video camera, fiberoptic light,
heat regulator, and piezoelectric humidifiers have been recommended [20]. While the fi-
ber optic light can illuminate and cure the constructed layer, heat regulators along with
piezoelectric humidifiers are able to inhibit the polymerization of materials in the printer
head. With respect to the dispensing system, the most common is the extruder type, which
can have a single or a double nozzle [14]. However, in bioprinting, the type of nozzle and
printer head depends on the bio-inks being used [20]. Furthermore, different operational
settings may be required depending on the type of material such as insects, meat byprod-
ucts, fibers from muscle cells, and plants. For example, meat byproducts may require tem-
peratures that are less than 4°C for the inhibition of microbial growth. However, the major
demerits associated with the feasibility of 3DP are the products’ time-consuming 3D de-
sign process, limited precision, and low productivity (Figure 3) [27]. The designing of 3D
products such as meat analogs can also be complex and time-intensive. Moreover, wide
ranges of meat products (traditional foods) are available in the market. A few examples
of freshly processed meat products include sausages, patties, and bratwurst. Some other
types of products are cured meat cuts, frankfurters, fermented products, and dried meat
products such as jerky and biltong [32]. Therefore, a database of different structures has
to be prepared, maintained, and be easily available. The precision is also a major demerit
because the final products (raw and final) can undergo post-processing. In particular,
meat analogs may undergo a post-processing step such as boiling and frying that has to
be performed separately. This must be considered for the large-scale production of 3D
products. Finally, the productivity of 3D printing is dependent on the speed and through-
put (number of products) of a printer [27]. Thus, smaller (benchtop) printers that use hy-
brid printing at high speeds via multiple nozzles are more desirable than several large
printers.
Figure 2. Utilization of major biomaterials for the development of 3D printing (3DP) of meat analogs. Adapted from [31].
Printer-innovation-related challenges also exist for 3DP of food products. The main
technological considerations for 3DP are the 3D positioning process and the dispensing
system. The positioning system is controlled by design/manufacturing software (CAD)
that aid in the creation of 3D structures. In the case of bioprinting, it is accomplished
using multiple heads (generally), which also require several sensors to ensure the thickness
of each layer. Nevertheless, errors can occur when layer-by-layer printing is involved.
Thus, to overcome this challenge, printer heads attached with a video camera, fiberoptic
light, heat regulator, and piezoelectric humidifiers have been recommended [
20
]. While
the fiber optic light can illuminate and cure the constructed layer, heat regulators along
with piezoelectric humidifiers are able to inhibit the polymerization of materials in the
printer head. With respect to the dispensing system, the most common is the extruder
type, which can have a single or a double nozzle [
14
]. However, in bioprinting, the type of
nozzle and printer head depends on the bio-inks being used [
20
]. Furthermore, different
operational settings may be required depending on the type of material such as insects,
meat byproducts, fibers from muscle cells, and plants. For example, meat byproducts may
require temperatures that are less than 4
C for the inhibition of microbial growth. However,
the major demerits associated with the feasibility of 3DP are the products’ time-consuming
3D design process, limited precision, and low productivity (Figure 3) [
27
]. The designing of
3D products such as meat analogs can also be complex and time-intensive. Moreover, wide
Sustainability 2021,13, 938 5 of 20
ranges of meat products (traditional foods) are available in the market. A few examples
of freshly processed meat products include sausages, patties, and bratwurst. Some other
types of products are cured meat cuts, frankfurters, fermented products, and dried meat
products such as jerky and biltong [
32
]. Therefore, a database of different structures has
to be prepared, maintained, and be easily available. The precision is also a major demerit
because the final products (raw and final) can undergo post-processing. In particular,
meat analogs may undergo a post-processing step such as boiling and frying that has
to be performed separately. This must be considered for the large-scale production of
3D products. Finally, the productivity of 3D printing is dependent on the speed and
throughput (number of products) of a printer [
27
]. Thus, smaller (benchtop) printers that
use hybrid printing at high speeds via multiple nozzles are more desirable than several
large printers.
Sustainability 2021, 13, x FOR PEER REVIEW 6 of 22
Figure 3. Technological consideration for the 3D printing (3DP) of meat analogs. Adapted from [33].
4. Materials-Based 3DP Approaches
With the 3D printing of meat analogs, the ease of printability depends on the materi-
als utilized. Thus, four major types of materials have been identified, which include bio-
materials (bio-driven), native materials, non-native materials, and alternative materials
[14,26].
4.1. Biomaterials-Based 3DP: Bioprinting
The utilization of biomaterials for the 3D printing of complex structures such as mus-
cles, skin, bones, and cartilage is known as bioprinting [34]. This technology involves the
precise arrangement of bio-inks (different cell types, biomaterials, and growth factors)
within a single structural framework [35]. The selection of cells (progenitor cells or stem
cells) is contingent upon the main purpose of the application [36]. The printing of spatial
patterns of living cells can be achieved via three major manufacturing concepts—direct
printing, indirect printing, and hybrid printing. Direct printing involves bioprinting inks
such as cell-laden hydrogels. Indirect printing encompasses the printing of cell-laden hy-
drogel layers onto a sacrificial component or mold that is cell-free. A third and better con-
cept is hybrid printing, which is a combination of different methods [23,36]. Although
tissue structures, such as bone, cartilage, tendon, skin, and muscle have been 3D printed
for tissue engineering applications, only skeletal muscles can be considered for the pro-
duction of meat. Skeletal muscles primarily contain muscle fibers along with connective
tissues and intramuscular adipose tissues [37]. In recent times, the development of human
muscle tissues that mimic the native muscle tissues of humans has gained attention, par-
ticularly in reconstructive surgery [38]. Bioengineered muscles, which are similar to native
muscle tissues, are formed by methods (e.g., in vitro culture, electrospinning) that mainly
focus on the uniaxial alignments of muscle cells [25,35]. In this regard, 3D printing is being
used to fabricate muscles that are structurally and functionally similar to native tissues
[38]. In one study, skeletal muscle was 3D printed using three major components: a) hy-
Figure 3. Technological consideration for the 3D printing (3DP) of meat analogs. Adapted from [33].
4. Materials-Based 3DP Approaches
With the 3D printing of meat analogs, the ease of printability depends on the materials
utilized. Thus, four major types of materials have been identified, which include biomateri-
als (bio-driven), native materials, non-native materials, and alternative materials [14,26].
4.1. Biomaterials-Based 3DP: Bioprinting
The utilization of biomaterials for the 3D printing of complex structures such as
muscles, skin, bones, and cartilage is known as bioprinting [
34
]. This technology involves
the precise arrangement of bio-inks (different cell types, biomaterials, and growth factors)
within a single structural framework [
35
]. The selection of cells (progenitor cells or stem
cells) is contingent upon the main purpose of the application [
36
]. The printing of spatial
patterns of living cells can be achieved via three major manufacturing concepts—direct
printing, indirect printing, and hybrid printing. Direct printing involves bioprinting inks
such as cell-laden hydrogels. Indirect printing encompasses the printing of cell-laden
Sustainability 2021,13, 938 6 of 20
hydrogel layers onto a sacrificial component or mold that is cell-free. A third and better
concept is hybrid printing, which is a combination of different methods [
23
,
36
]. Although
tissue structures, such as bone, cartilage, tendon, skin, and muscle have been 3D printed for
tissue engineering applications, only skeletal muscles can be considered for the production
of meat. Skeletal muscles primarily contain muscle fibers along with connective tissues
and intramuscular adipose tissues [
37
]. In recent times, the development of human muscle
tissues that mimic the native muscle tissues of humans has gained attention, particularly
in reconstructive surgery [
38
]. Bioengineered muscles, which are similar to native muscle
tissues, are formed by methods (e.g.,
in vitro
culture, electrospinning) that mainly focus on
the uniaxial alignments of muscle cells [
25
,
35
]. In this regard, 3D printing is being used to
fabricate muscles that are structurally and functionally similar to native tissues [
38
]. In one
study, skeletal muscle was 3D printed using three major components: (a) hydrogel bio-
ink that contained human muscle progenitor cell (hMPC), (b) sacrificing acellular gelatin
hydrogel bio-ink, and (c) supporting poly (
ε
-caprolactone) (PCL) polymers [
38
]. More
recently, vascularized tissues have been 3D printed, which is considered to be a technical
challenge [
23
]. Furthermore, integrated tissue-organ printing (ITOP) system, which can use
various cell types and biomaterials, has been adopted to fabricate vascularized human-scale
tissues [
39
]. Although these methods are used for bioprinting human muscles, they can be
adopted for the fabrication of animal muscles. This is because farm animals have similar
body sizes to humans, and their development patterns of adipose tissue and skeletal
muscles are also closer to humans [
37
]. Table 2shows some examples of 3DP human
skeletal muscles. However, for the fabrication of meat, complex blood vessel (vascular)
systems are not essential. While a less complicated perfusion system or channel seems
adequate, the precise contribution of blood vessels on the organoleptic properties of meat
has yet to be investigated [40].
Table 2. Some examples of 3D bioprinted human skeletal muscles.
Printing
Technique Materials Cell Types Printing
Parameter Features References
Extrusion
dECM
PCL contraints
Gelatin
Human skeletal
muscle cell Temp: 18 C
Mimicking native
muscle
Vascularization
[41]
Extrusion CMCMA,
Alginate-MA C2C12 Nozzle size:
200 micron
Mechanical
property
optimization
[42]
ITOP
Fibrinogen
gelatin HA, glycerol,
PCL pillar
hMPCs 300 µwidth Increased cell
viability [35]
ITOP
Gelatin hydrogel
poly (ε-caprolactone)
(PCL) polymer
hMPCs 300–400 µ
highly viable,
organized cellular
structure
[38]
Notes, Adapted from [
34
]. dECM, decellularized extracellular matrix; PCL, polycaprolactone; CMCMA, carboxymethyl cellulose-methacrylate;
MA, alginate-methacrylate; HA, hyaluronic acid; C2C12, myoblast cell line; and hMPCs, human primary muscle progenitor cells.
The bioprinting of tissues and organoids is mainly based on bio-inks. The develop-
ment of bio-ink, a medium that contains living cells along with crosslinkers, is considered
to be challenging [
20
]. However, for the development of meat analogs, it becomes im-
portant that food-safe culture substrates be utilized for animal cell culture. In general,
bio-inks lacking in living cells are used as a scaffold (e.g., hydrogel-based) for the culture
and growth of cells [
20
]. In the case of meat analogs, apart from being in scales that are
appropriate, the scaffolds used have to be composed of edible materials [
43
]. While there
are some synthetic hydrogels (e.g., poly(N-(2-hydroxypropyl) methacrylamide lactate (PH-
PMA) and polyethylene glycol (PEG)) for the fabrication of scaffolds, natural polymers
(e.g., agarose, alginate, gelatin, chitosan) [
44
] may be used for the 3DP meat analog. Other
natural polymers such as fibrinogen and collagen have also been used as scaffolds to im-
Sustainability 2021,13, 938 7 of 20
prove the tissue stiffness and the physiological resemblance to
in vivo
skeletal muscles [
45
].
Although multiple layers can easily be printed with collagen, they tend to lose shape due
to dissolution or swelling. To counter this problem, other biodegradable materials have
to be added [
20
]. Most importantly, the choice of hydrogel is based on principles such as
cross-linking mechanism, ionic interactions, and colloidal chemistry [
36
]. However, the use
of hydrogel is also not without problems. While high concentrations of hydrogels can
improve printability, they can also cause lower cell viability. Thus, a combination of hy-
drogels with low concentrations has been suggested. Owing to such demerits, a new type
of bio-ink, decellularized extracellular matrix (dECM), has gained attention. This bio-ink
provides an appropriate environment for myotube formation and differentiation. The print-
ability of skeletal muscle, adipose, heart tissue, and cartilage has indicated the feasibility
of bioprinting with dECM. However, the lack of superior shape fidelity of post-printed
structures has been recognized to be a challenge [30].
For the improvement of the surface morphology of 3D scaffolds used for tissue
engineering, 3D-printed scaffolds have been coated with electrospun nanofibers. In a study,
short poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA)-collagen-gelatin (PCG) nanofibers enhanced the
linkage and proliferation of stem cells (bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (BMSCs)) [
46
].
However, it is not necessary to have scaffolds for the fabrication of skeletal muscles.
In one study, the monolayer-cultured rat muscle cells were rolled to form cylindrical shape
structures for the fabrication of muscles [
47
]. It is noteworthy to mention that in the
aforementioned studies, the 3DP muscles possessed the functional properties of natural
muscles in humans. However, when the muscles are developed from animal cells for meat,
their functional properties are not that important. It was reported that companies such as
Modern Meadow
(Brooklyn, New York, U.S) had attempted to fabricate meat using fat
and muscle cells. Recently, this company has not been making any meat products, and it is
involved in the production of leathers [
48
]. However, the cost-effectiveness of 3DP muscles
is an important factor that determines its commercial success. According to a study, even
though the FDM and the laser sintering (LS) are both considered scalable and reproducible
processes, FDM is reported to be more cost-effective. Apart from machine cost, the printing
material cost (~£30 per kg) was found to be lower for the FDM technique compared to LS
(~£200 per kg) [45].
4.2. Native Printable Materials
Native printable materials possess the ability to flow easily from a nozzle, which
thereby does not require any additional flow enhancers. Some major samples of na-
tive printable materials that have been 3D printed include dough, chocolate, and puree.
Moreover, for some of the native printable materials, it is not necessary to undergo post-
processing, which could impact the structure of the final product [16].
4.3. Non-Native Printable Materials
Non-native materials need flow enhancers for the proper extrusion of food materials
(e.g., meat, fish, seafood, fruits). The non-native printing of meat was first reported by [
26
].
In their study, turkey meat with added transglutaminase (TGase) and pork fat was 3D
printed for sous-vide cooking [
26
]. However, the maintenance of a proper 3D shape and
structure throughout the cooking process is considered to be challenging. In particular,
meat and seafood are subjected to post-processing treatments such as boiling or frying.
Contrarily, products such as chocolate and cheese do not undergo these types of post-
processing operations [
14
,
26
]. In one study, the addition of gelatin to a meat slurry led to
an improvement in the viscosity of pork, chicken, and fish meat. [
24
]. Likewise, in another
study, canned tuna blended and mixed with spring water was 3D printed to form food
for persons that have problems swallowing [
49
]. However, the lack of suitable food
formulations and processing limitations deter the development of 3D printed products.
Thus, 3D printing of meat, which is a complex matrix with diverse properties remains a
challenge [
14
]. Although the aforementioned studies have utilized livestock meat as the
Sustainability 2021,13, 938 8 of 20
main ingredient, it is very likely that similar methods can be employed for 3D printing of
mimic meat products using materials derived from meat byproducts.
4.3.1. Meat-Byproducts-Based 3D Printing
To reduce the negative impact of livestock meat on the environment, the utilization of
meat waste and byproducts has been suggested [
14
,
50
,
51
]. Meat production is known to
result in inevitable wastes that mainly contain offal (body parts apart from muscles) and pro-
cessing streams (wastewater, exudates, or brine solutions) [
52
,
53
]. Livestock byproducts,
such as intestines, skin, feet, and fat, represent about 52% and 66% of the cattle live weight
and the pig live weight, respectively. Since greater than half of these animals’ live weight
is rendered unfavorable for regular consumption, it becomes important to develop pro-
cesses or technologies for the effective utilization of meat byproducts [
54
]. Furthermore,
the large-scale disposal of meat byproducts and wastes in landfills raises environmental
concerns. However, the re-utilization of byproducts for consumption also entails several
challenges that include negative consumer perception and stringent regulation [
53
,
55
].
In this regard, their reuse in 3D printing could improve their environmental sustainability.
In addition, this novel technology could also de-animalize animal byproducts (e.g., heart,
liver, kidney, intestines, and tongue). De-animalization refers to the modification of food
structures, such as the elimination of skin and bones, through which in that way reduces
disgust reactions [56].
Apart from amino acids, vitamins, and fatty acids, some byproducts such as livers
and kidneys also contain higher amounts of carbohydrates. Skin, ears, and feet are mostly
composed of collagen, and their protein content is similar to lean meat. Amongst the
byproducts, pork tail has been reported to contain the highest fat content but a lower water
content. Owing to a large number of connective tissues, the amino acid composition of ani-
mal byproducts varies significantly compared to lean meat. According to the USDA, meat
must contain a minimum of 14% protein and fat up to 30% for deboning [54]. In addition,
wastes generated by meat-processing units mainly comprise processing streams, which can
provide valuable proteins. However, the technical conditions for extraction of protein or
peptides from meat byproducts/wastes are ease of extraction (non–denatured protein), lack
of unfavorable compounds (colorants or flavors), and acceptable amino-acid profile [
53
].
Studies have reported that mechanically separated meat (MSM) such as surimi and chicken
is commonly used as a major component in some processed meat products with low shelf
life [
57
,
58
]. Table 3shows the proximate analysis of a few meat-byproducts along with
MSM. However, MSM added with transglutaminase (Tgase) could be used for 3D printing
meat products, as discussed in an earlier section. In an investigation by Wang et al. [
59
],
it was reported that the addition of salt to surimi gels (1.5 g NaCl/100 g surimi mixture),
improved its printability. Fish bone powder (nano-size), another fish byproduct that has
a high calcium content, could also be added to MSM to enhance the endogenous TGase
activity, leading to improved structures [
60
]. In another study, proteins derived from MSM
(chicken) and pork lungs were reported to possess high gel strength [
61
]. Improved gel
strength is considered to be an important functional property of ingredients in 3DP. Th 3D
structures fabricated with stronger gel patterns are able to withstand their own weight
throughout the printing process [
59
]. Furthermore, these proteins (mechanically separated
chicken meat (MSCM) and pork lungs) have shown low gelation temperature (~45
C)
and superior emulsifying properties, which make them suitable for various cooked meat
products [61].
Apart from the aforementioned offal, as a replacement of porcine meat, proteins sal-
vaged from four dissimilar processing streams and co-products (brine solution, stick water,
exudates, blood plasma) were added to the Irish breakfast type sausages [62]. Thus, meat
industrial wastes also offer a variety of biomolecules that could be used in the fabrica-
tion of 3D meat products. However, the production of biomolecules from byproducts is
commonly achieved via traditional methods—enzymatic and thermal processes, solvent
extraction, and fermentation [
63
]. Furthermore, to ensure the safety of byproducts, freezing
Sustainability 2021,13, 938 9 of 20
(e.g.,
12
C) and packaging have to be employed. These are undertaken to control the
growth of pathogens, such as Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium perfringens, and Escherichia
coli. All these have to be considered when meat-products are utilized as sources of 3D
printing ingredients. Traditionally, byproducts are fried, roasted, boiled, smoked, and mi-
crowaved, which result in improved safety and characteristic flavors [
64
]. Hence, the
effect of various offal derived materials and different post-processing methods on the
physicochemical and sensory properties of 3D products has yet to be analyzed.
Table 3. Proximate analysis of a few meat byproducts and mechanically separated meat (MSM).
Meat
By-Products Protein (%) Moisture (%) Fat (%)
Pork lungs 16.6 79.1 2.1
Pork kidneys 16.2 77.7 4.0
Chicken viscera 11.2 69.6 16.9
Mechanically separated meat (MSM): Chicken 13.9 69.1 15.1
Adapted from Rivera et al. [58].
Likewise, fish industrial waste also contains valuable biomaterials such as chitosan,
amino acids, enzymes, and gelatin, which could be exploited [
54
]. According to a review,
fish byproducts contain about 15%–30% of protein (crude), a maximum of 25% fat (crude),
and 50%–80% moisture. Table 4shows the proximate analysis of a few types of fish
industrial wastes [
65
]. Collagen can also be derived from fish skin, which is discarded
along with other parts (e.g., tails, gut, fins, and head), leading to marine pollution. In an
investigation, the collagen extracted from eel skin was mixed with alginate hydrogel to form
cost-effective and eco-friendly 3D constructs [
66
]. In one study by Yang et al. [
67
],
in vitro
3D-printed cartilage tissues were constructed using bio-inks that contained collagen type I
(COL) or agarose (AG) combined with sodium alginate (SA). The cartilage bioprinted with
SA/COL had better mechanical strength than the one bioprinted with SA/AG. Although
the aforementioned 3D constructs were designed for tissue engineering, it is likely that
materials derived from meat byproducts could be used for 3DP meat analogs. In addition,
skin can also be printed with materials derived from meat byproducts. In an earlier study,
shape fidelity issues of collagen and alginate-based 3DP multilayered skin (co-cultured
with keratinocytes and fibroblasts) were countered with a cryogenic plotting system. In this
technique, the collagen solution was deposited (layer-by-layer) at a temperature of
40
C
followed by freeze-drying at
76
C for three days [
68
]. In a recent study, a tissue-
engineered meat analog was developed using microfibrous gelatin, which acted as support
for bovine muscle cells. The jet spun microfibers were fabricated using gelatin that was
derived from animal wastes [
43
]. Thus, animal byproducts offer various biomaterials that
could be utilized for 3DP, thereby lowering the environmental impact.
Table 4. Proximate analysis of fish industry wastes.
Composition (Nutri-
ent/Biomolecule) Head Flesh Viscera
Crude protein 9–21% 14–22% 18–23%
Crude fat 1–6% 2–5% 2–7%
Moisture 59–68% 70–77% 64–72%
Ash 7–18% 2–5% 2–5%
Adapted from Nawaz et al. [65].
4.3.2. Plant-Materials-Based 3D Printing
Plant-based meat replacers or substitutes are commonly derived from a wide range of
materials that are mainly procured from cereals (e.g., barley and rye), legumes (e.g., mung
beans, common beans, and lentils), and oilseeds such as cottonseed and rapeseed [
69
]. How-
ever, despite the development of some innovative plant-based meat analogs, widespread
Sustainability 2021,13, 938 10 of 20
replacement of livestock meat has yet to happen. The lack of replacement is attributed
to several causes, which mainly include consumer perception and cost [
70
]. As a result,
several recent studies have focused on various types of plant materials for the development
of meat analogs. In this regard, researchers have focused on pea protein because it has
the ability to offer complementary functions to other constituents owing to its unique
attributes [
71
,
72
]. However, the gelling capacity of pea protein has been reported to be
lower than soy protein, thereby requiring salt addition or particle size modification. On the
other hand, soy, which is commonly used, does not need to have high purity for the devel-
opment of meat analogs. This is due to the presence of several constituents that enhance
its water-holding capacity, gelling, and fat-absorbing properties. Another plant material
that has gained attention is wheat, which can result in fibrous proteinaceous structures due
to its capacity to form disulfide protein linkages [
72
]. This widely used material has been
shown to improve the rheological and viscoelastic properties of analogs [
69
]. It is reported
that high heat or pressure treatment of rapeseed proteins can improve the structure of meat
analogs [
72
]. Lipid ingredients such as vegetable oils (e.g., sunflower oil and canola oil) that
provide juiciness and flavor have also been used for the development of meat analogs [
71
].
While there are numerous materials derived from plants, aggregation of fibrous networks
can clog the printer nozzle and lead to structures that have layer definitions [
18
,
73
]. Further-
more, several types of hydrocolloids may have to be incorporated for 3D printing of meat
products. Some examples of hydrocolloids include xanthan gum, alginate, gum arabic,
and carrageenan [
18
]. Nano-scaled materials such as cellulose nanofiber (CNF) can also
potentially be used for 3DP. Studies have shown that the inclusion of CNF in pastes resulted
in improved shape stability of 3D structures along with decreased clogging of tips [73].
The 3D printing of food products with complex matrices such as meat is considered to
be challenging. The task of fabricating meat substitutes that mimic meat products with only
plant materials is even more challenging. In particular, start-up ventures, namely, Beyond
Burger and Impossible Foods, have taken up this challenge and have produced plant-based
meat alternatives. Although Impossible Foods (Redwood City, California, US) uses various
plant-based constituents, soy leghemoglobin is chiefly utilized for the development of the
characteristic meat color, which is because of the pigment protein myoglobin. On the other
hand, Beyond Burger (El Segundo, California, US) utilizes beet juice extract, while another
startup has made use of tomato paste [
71
]. Other natural pigments such as red peppers,
paprika, annatto, and red rice can also potentially be used [
60
]. In regards to 3D printing, a
start-up called NOVAMEAT (Barcelona, Spain) has claimed to have fabricated 3D-printed
beef and chicken. In 2018, this Barcelona-based company claimed to have printed steak
using ingredients such as pea, seaweed, and beetroot juice. The 3D-printed steak was
reported to be organoleptically similar to regular beef steak. The printed fibers had
diameters in the range of 100
µ
to 500
µ
. A 50 g steak was produced at a cost of $1.50 USD,
indicating the cost-effectiveness of the fabrication [
74
,
75
]. An Israel-based company has
also claimed to have fabricated plant-based steaks with plant-based protein, fat, and water.
According to a press release, the cost of a ~200 g printed steak was about $4 USD. Along
with beef, they plan to focus on other livestock meat such as tuna and pork [
74
]. However,
it is important to note that the lack of full publically available information may lead to
uncertainty about the future of the products, processes, or the company. Nevertheless,
inadequate essential amino acids, the necessity of texturization of plant proteins, and the
inclusion of various non-proteinaceous ingredients are some of the major hurdles in the
development of 3D meat analogs. Furthermore, plant-based analogs are mostly products
such as sausages, patties, and mince. The development of steaks from plant-based materials
seems to be a difficult undertaking [
76
]. Nonetheless, in 2017, the idea of an emulsified red
meat ink was proposed for the first time by Meat and Livestock Australia during a 3D food
printing conference [
77
]. Recently, another ingredient, mushroom, which resembles meat,
was used to 3D print a snack. Printing of fiber-rich food is considered to be a challenge
owing to the aggregation of the complex network of fibers, which leads to the clogging
of printer nozzles. In this study, although not as a meat analog, it was possible to print
Sustainability 2021,13, 938 11 of 20
a snack using mushroom and wheat flour [
18
]. Thus, meat analogs could be fabricated
with mushrooms as a major ingredient. However, sustainable alternatives to plant-derived
materials for the development of meat analogs are insects.
4.4. Alternative Materials: Insect-Derived 3D Structures
In many countries, insects are consumed as a flavorsome and healthy source of pro-
teins. While the nutritional value of insects is dependent on factors such as species and
sex, they are considered to be rich sources of iron, copper, and minerals (Table 5). It is
also suggested that insects may be superior to animal meats or plants in terms of their
protein levels (50–85%). Particularly, insect proteins are considered superior to livestock
meat protein due to their high digestibility (75
98%) [
78
]. As a result, attempts are being
made to replace animal-derived proteins with edible insects (e.g., mealworm larvae and
adult crickets) on an equal weight basis [
79
]. The most consumed species of insects in
the world are beetles (Coleoptera), which accounts for 31%, followed by moths and but-
terflies (Lepidoptera) for 18%. About 14% of worldwide insect consumption comes from
ants, bees, and wasps (Hymenoptera) and 13% from grasshoppers, locusts, and crickets
(Orthoptera). Consumption of leafhoppers, cicadas, aphids, and true bugs (Hemiptera),
termites (Isoptera), dragonflies (Odonata), and flies (Diptera) is about 10%, 3%, 3%, and 2%,
respectively [
78
,
80
]. However, owing to the widespread perception that the consumption
of insects is the consumption of filth, changing its form has been recommended. To this end,
insects have been dried and pulverized into powders and flours, which thereby reduce dis-
gust reaction [
81
]. Other insect materials that can potentially be used in various fabricated
foods are proteins (soluble/insoluble), lipids, and fibers. With respect to proteins, studies
have focused on their pH-dependent solubility, emulsion activity, interfacial property,
and gelling behavior [
28
,
82
]. However, the optimal concentrations of different materials in
various combinations on the textural and sensory properties have to be investigated.
Table 5. Some examples of common insects and their characteristics.
Insect Type Protein (%) Lipid (%) Other Nutrients References
Ground cricket 48–67% (dry wt) 5–20%
(species dependent)
Fiber 8.7–18%,
Vitamin B12,
Fe, Zn, Cu
[83,84]
Grasshopper 13–28% (fresh wt)
57–69% (dry wt); 3–67% (dry wt) Crude fiber 8.5–12.5%
Fe, Mn, Cu, Ca, P, Zn [83,85]
Back soldier fly 40–44% (dry wt) 15–49% (dry wt)
Crude fiber 7% (dry wt)
Mn, Zn, Ca, P [86,87]
Weaver ant 26–48.5% (dry wt) 10–25% (fresh wt) Vitamin B1, B2, B3, P,
Mg, Na, Zn, Ca, Fe [78]
Palm Weevil beetle 7–36% (fresh wt) 54% (dry wt) Vitamin E [8385]
Adapted from Sun-Waterhouse et al. [77]. Wt, weight.
In one study, flour derived from dried insects (mealworms, crickets) along with
fondant was 3D printed to form icing for cakes [
88
]. Nevertheless, for meat analogs, insect
powders of different particle sizes mixed with materials, such as hydrocolloids (e.g gelatin,
guar gum), surimi gel, MSM, and meat flavors have yet to be investigated. In another
study, mealworm beetle (Tenebrio molitor) enriched-wheat-based snacks were 3D printed.
The addition of mealworm powder (20%) to wheat flour dough softened the raw 3DP snack
and also reduced water loss in the baked 3DP final product [
17
]. However, when a large
amount (>20%) of insect powders are used in meat analogs, the effect of increased water
evaporation from particles has to be considered. In the case of increased water loss from the
product, hydrocolloids such as gelatinized starch can be included. Furthermore, to enhance
the printability of insect-based pastes, more than one type (composite) of a natural polymer
(e.g., collagen, alginate) can potentially be used. Another possible option is the addition of
insect powders to meat paste derived from animal byproducts along with transglutaminase.
Furthermore, to improve the organoleptic properties, 3DP insect-based products can be
Sustainability 2021,13, 938 12 of 20
smoked, which can give a meat-like aroma to the analogs. This will depend on the type of
meat analog because it may have to undergo post-processing steps like frying or boiling.
However, the formation of a meat-like aroma was reported in a study, wherein insects were
smoked in a hot pan (without oil) instead of a wood stove [
89
]. While insect-enriched foods
have been 3D printed, reformulated insect-derived products that resemble meat products,
such as patties, sausages, or steaks, have yet to be 3D printed. For example, ant-loaded
candy or cricket in sour cream can not be considered as a meat analog.
5. Environmental Sustainability
Apart from the fabrication of 3D meat analogs that mimic the physical properties of
livestock meat products, it is important to consider its sustainability. However, sustainabil-
ity depends on many factors (Figure 4), which include energy consumption, waste genera-
tion, and pollution [
90
]. To this end, a competitive environmental strategies framework has
been recommended. To develop a successful meat analog, a firm or a start-up venture can
utilize this framework, which includes (a) low-cost strategies such as reducing investment
and operational costs and (b) differentiation strategies such as creating sustainability-based
value propositions. Furthermore, investments may focus on (c) efficient organizational
processes/activities and (d) the development of superior products for consumers [
91
].
However, an earlier study identified that 3D printing could be cost-effective with low vol-
umes and high-value sectors, such as medical and aerospace component production [
19
].
The cost of production in 3DP is mainly contingent upon the equipment (machinery),
materials, pre-and post-processing steps, and skilled labor [
90
]. The requirement of lower
amounts of inputs and outputs in high-value sectors can result in lower energy usage and
related CO
2
emissions [
19
]. Contrarily, the lack of a positive impact on the environment has
been reported in other industries such as 3D printed high-speed gears. Nonetheless, the life
cycle assessment (LCA) of 3DP foods has yet to be undertaken. LCA is a technique that ana-
lyzes the environmental effects of a product throughout its entire life cycle. Thus, regardless
of the manufacturing sector, LCA includes 3D printing and the post-processing steps [
90
].
Sustainability 2021, 13, x FOR PEER REVIEW 14 of 22
volumes and high-value sectors, such as medical and aerospace component production
[19]. The cost of production in 3DP is mainly contingent upon the equipment (machinery),
materials, pre-and post-processing steps, and skilled labor [90]. The requirement of lower
amounts of inputs and outputs in high-value sectors can result in lower energy usage and
related CO
2
emissions [19]. Contrarily, the lack of a positive impact on the environment
has been reported in other industries such as 3D printed high-speed gears. Nonetheless,
the life cycle assessment (LCA) of 3DP foods has yet to be undertaken. LCA is a technique
that analyzes the environmental effects of a product throughout its entire life cycle. Thus,
regardless of the manufacturing sector, LCA includes 3D printing and the post-processing
steps [90].
.
Figure 4. Major facets of the environmental impact of 3D printing (3DP) of meat analogs.
5.1. Energy Consumption
Even though it is still under development, the 3D printing of food has been suggested
to have the potential to provide many benefits, which include lower amounts of raw ma-
terials and energy along with reduced waste [19]. The environmental impacts of 3DP are
largely contingent upon the amount of energy consumption—particularly, electrical en-
ergy. This form of energy is mainly used in pre-heating the machine and during the print-
ing and cooling process. While the energy consumption is similar for samples fabricated
with different 3D printing methods (e.g., additive manufacturing and injection molding),
it varies when mass production is involved [90]. Food production is a high-volume busi-
ness (number/type of products), which also requires a wide array of ingredients in large
quantities. Thus, the commercial viability of 3D printers depends on their ability (speed)
to print large numbers of products in less time. Energy consumption is also related to the
nature of the materials utilized. Materials that require higher temperatures tend to con-
sume more energy and vice versa. For example, tuna-shaped structures are 3D printed
using tuna puree with an extrusion system that is pressure-controlled and maintained at
20 °C [49]. Hummus, cheese, and other such native printable materials are usually ex-
truded at room temperature [16]. It has been reported that many of the food products are
printed at room temperature. In addition, 3D-printed, fiber-rich products are required to
undergo post-processing treatment such as oven drying for 20–30 min at 100 °C [74]. Like-
wise, products with larger masses also require a higher amount of energy. Thus, due to
numerous factors, the evaluation of energy consumption is not an easy undertaking. Fur-
thermore, LCA studies on 3D printing of various types of food products have yet to be
undertaken.
Figure 4. Major facets of the environmental impact of 3D printing (3DP) of meat analogs.
5.1. Energy Consumption
Even though it is still under development, the 3D printing of food has been suggested
to have the potential to provide many benefits, which include lower amounts of raw
materials and energy along with reduced waste [
19
]. The environmental impacts of 3DP are
largely contingent upon the amount of energy consumption—particularly, electrical energy.
This form of energy is mainly used in pre-heating the machine and during the printing
Sustainability 2021,13, 938 13 of 20
and cooling process. While the energy consumption is similar for samples fabricated
with different 3D printing methods (e.g., additive manufacturing and injection molding),
it varies when mass production is involved [
90
]. Food production is a high-volume
business (number/type of products), which also requires a wide array of ingredients in
large quantities. Thus, the commercial viability of 3D printers depends on their ability
(speed) to print large numbers of products in less time. Energy consumption is also related
to the nature of the materials utilized. Materials that require higher temperatures tend to
consume more energy and vice versa. For example, tuna-shaped structures are 3D printed
using tuna puree with an extrusion system that is pressure-controlled and maintained at
20
C [
49
]. Hummus, cheese, and other such native printable materials are usually extruded
at room temperature [
16
]. It has been reported that many of the food products are printed
at room temperature. In addition, 3D-printed, fiber-rich products are required to undergo
post-processing treatment such as oven drying for 20–30 min at 100
C [
74
]. Likewise,
products with larger masses also require a higher amount of energy. Thus, due to numerous
factors, the evaluation of energy consumption is not an easy undertaking. Furthermore,
LCA studies on 3D printing of various types of food products have yet to be undertaken.
The procurement of raw materials (production, distribution, storage) needed for
3DP meat analogs also has an impact on the environment. In the case of
in vitro
muscle
cultivation, LCA studies have suggested that, even though land and inputs required for lab-
grown meat are less, the energy required for the entire process is significantly higher than
livestock meat production [
92
]. Cell culture is associated with the utilization of electricity
and fuel [
93
]. In one study, although the global warming potential of lab-grown meat
was shown to be less than bovine meat, it was found to be not lower than that of porcine
or poultry meat. Even though this study had made many assumptions, the industrial
scale
in vitro
biomass culture was found to be energy-intensive [
92
]. In regards to 3DP
of human skeletal muscles for surgical implantations, the muscle constructs undergo
a post-processing step that involves perfusion bioreactors, cell encapsulators, and bio-
monitoring [
20
]. While these steps improve the functionality of fabricated muscles, they
may not be necessary for 3DP of meat analogs, thereby reducing materials, cost, and time.
With respect to insects, farming, or the collection from fields is reported to have a lower
environmental impact [
94
]. While some studies have suggested that insect-derived food
is more eco-friendly than livestock meat, information about the environmental impact is
very limited. According to an LCA-based study on mealworms (Tenebrio molitor) and super
worms (Zophobas morio), although the energy usage (EU) for mealworms (per kg of edible
protein) was comparable to porcine meat, it was greater than poultry but lesser than
bovine meat. The higher EU was mainly because of the heating that was required for
the growth of the worms. To overcome this obstacle, along with smaller larvae, large-
sized larvae were included that could provide higher meat metabolic heat. However,
the major advantages of insect farming over livestock farming include the greater rate of
reproduction, efficient feed conversion, and the lack of methane release [
95
]. Likewise,
the re-utilization of meat byproducts and waste is also considered to have a positive
influence on the environment. According to an earlier estimate, bovine slaughterhouses
generate the highest quantity of solid waste (~27% of the animal weight) followed by sheep
slaughterhouses (17% of the animal weight) and pig slaughterhouses (4% of the animal
weight). Hence, it becomes important to reuse these types of wastes, which otherwise
would be dumped in landfills [
54
]. Commercial and domestic fish wastes are also usually
discarded into landfills or into the sea [
66
]. Similarly, plant/agricultural waste can also
be reutilized for the cleaner production of 3D meat analogs. However, the extraction of
valuable biomaterials from these types of animal/seafood industrial wastes is also an
energy-intensive process.
In this regard, a recent study investigated the extraction of proteins from poultry meat
processing waste via mechanical pressing and non-thermal pulsed electric fields. It was re-
ported that the extraction of liquid was improved when non-thermal treatment, which used
a low voltage long pulse, was used on wasted chicken breast muscles. This was achieved
Sustainability 2021,13, 938 14 of 20
without the need for any chemicals. With an input of total energy of
38.4 ±1.2 J g1
, ex-
traction of wasted chicken biomass resulted in ~12% liquid fraction. Additional income,
reduced waste, and waste-related environmental impact were some of the benefits re-
ported [
95
]. Similar to other food production methods, 3DP also generates wastes, which
must be eliminated, reduced, and reutilized [
90
]. However, data pertaining to wastes
generated and their impact on the environment are very limited.
5.2. Air Pollution
With the increasing use of additive manufacturing in various industries and academics,
its effect on air pollution has gained attention. In this regard, desktop 3D printers have been
recommended. This will allow consumers to print their own food, thereby revolutionizing
the transport sector. Furthermore, the printing of products or components nearer to the
location of consumers could also positively affect the environment. Reduced transportation
(at least for long distances) of final products is expected to lower CO
2
emissions, thereby
improving air quality. However, the procurement of input materials (bio-inks, meat
byproducts, and insects) can also cause GHG emissions. In a recent study, GHG emissions
during black soldier fly (BSF) rearing was quantified. The rearing of BSF, a promising food
alternative, caused direct GHG emissions of about 17
±
8.6 g CO
2
eq per kg of dry larvae
gain. The results indicated the need for improvements in carbon and energy efficiencies [
96
].
Nonetheless, the type of input materials also impacts the GHG emissions from 3DP of food
products. For example, food products can be 3D printed with bio-polymers that require
low temperatures. Furthermore, bio-polymers-derived filaments are known to be non-toxic,
biodegradable, and relatively less expensive [
90
]. However, the emissions of sub-micron
particles, nanoparticles, and gases from food-based 3D printers have to be evaluated in a
clean room. Since 3DP uses electric power, it is possible that an indirect influence could be
through reduced CO
2
emission as opposed to conventional livestock meat, which results
in all three types of GHG emissions (CH
4
, N
2
O, and CO
2
). According to a sustainability
study, 3D printing technologies can lower 130.5–525.5 Mt of CO
2
emissions by 2025 [
19
].
Furthermore, CO
2
emissions caused by electric power usage can be countered with de-
carbonization [
97
]. Another advantage of 3DP is reduced labor costs, which may be further
reduced for 3D food production. This is because highly skilled workers are not required for
3D food production as compared to other industries (e.g., aerospace, machinery), where
highly skilled workers are required [
90
]. However, some skill levels may be necessary for
3DP food production compared to conventional food production.
5.3. Sustainable Supply Chain Management (SSCM)
Owing to the increasing complexity and concerns over the environment, several
countries around the world are trying to create and facilitate sustainable supply chains
(SSC). It is known that improvement in the sustainability of SSC is contingent upon
waste reduction [98]. This is of great importance in both animal- and plant-derived foods.
The total amount of global food loss and wastes has been estimated to be nearly 1.3 billion
tons annually. Hence, it is important to reduce wastes and loss at different stages of
the supply chain [
99
]. This also applies to the 3D printing of meat analogs. Even in
animal cell culture for meat, real-time sensors estimate the number of nutrients and wastes,
which in turn lowers operational costs [
100
]. Another potential source of protein for
plant-based meat substitutes is plant waste biomass. In one study, protein derived from
peanut biomass waste was used for the production of meat substitutes via high-moisture
extrusion [
101
]. With respect to plant wastes, a wide variety of proteins and fibers can be
derived that can be used for the production of meat analogs. The utilization of wastes is
cost-effective and environmental friendly [
102
]. Likewise, meat byproducts and wastes can
also be utilized as major ingredients in the development of products that mimic traditional
meat foods such as sausages and patties. To this end, 3D printing offers a promising
approach for the mitigation of food wastes. Even in the process of 3D printing, it becomes
important to reduce wastes. This can be achieved by highly efficient and productive
Sustainability 2021,13, 938 15 of 20
printers. Nonetheless, efficiency is dependent on the optimization of all activities along a
supply chain that include the rational organization of activities, physical flow of materials,
and logistic costs [
103
]. This becomes very important when 3D printing is scaled up
and commercialized. In the case of bioprinting, the development of generic/universal
components or scaffolds and optimization in cell sourcing and fabrication logistics will
lower production costs [104] and provide sustainability.
6. Consumer Acceptance
Apart from deeply entrenched attitudes toward livestock meat, unfamiliarity and
ideation are major impediments in the acceptance of several types of meat analogs [
102
].
Particularly, 3DP brings several types of unfamiliar elements to the food production
sector. In a study by Lupton et al. [
105
], the major elements that influence consumer
acceptance of 3DP products were evaluated. According to this study, the novel method of
food production that uses digital technology is not understood very well by consumers.
Moreover, many of the 3D-printed food products are overtly different from conventional
food. In the cases where the printed products mimic conventional products, they are often
viewed with suspicion. Furthermore, unfamiliarity with the food is a major hurdle in its
acceptance. Printed foods with familiar ingredients, such as chocolate, dough, and sugar,
are acceptable by consumers. On the other hand, foods printed with unfamiliar ingredients,
such as insects and algae, are unacceptable in western countries. The lack of acceptance
can be attributed to the perceived strangeness of the novel foods, a similar response
observed with
in vitro
meat [
105
]. In a recent study, in regards to the idea of 3DP meat and
insect-derived products, most of the respondents considered 3DP food as unnatural, with
responses that encompassed being potentially harmful, lacking freshness, not tasting good,
or lacking nutritional value. It was also indicated that the consumer acceptance of novel
food depends on the knowledge of preparation methods [
50
]. Moreover, introducing 3D
printers to kitchens and the inclusion of ingredients such as insects are major impediments
to its acceptance [
14
]. In a more recent study, consumers’ attitudes and their acceptance
of 3D printed foods were compared with conventional foods. This online survey of
329 Canadian residents showed that half of the consumers would accept and were excited
about 3D-printed foods. Within the recognized three clusters, the markedly interested
cluster and the moderately interested cluster were acceptable vies of meatballs and sauce
fabricated with 3D printers. They believed that these products were healthy and highly
processed, and they would consider buying and eating them. Contrarily, the third cluster
(not interested cluster) were less willing to buy or eat and did not consider these products to
be healthy or highly processed [
106
]. However, sensory analysis and consumer opinions of
actual 3DP meat analogs derived from muscle cells, meat byproducts, and plant materials
in comparison with conventional meat products (livestock derived) have to be investigated.
Nonetheless, studies have shown that the adoption of meat analogs by consumers is based
on an innovation-decision process. The consumer behavior toward novel foods can be
understood using the five different stages of this process: knowledge, persuasion, decision,
implementation, and confirmation. In the knowledge stage, it is important the consumer
learns many details about the meat analogs that include the formulation method and
ingredients. In the persuasion stage, a favorable or an unfavorable opinion or attitude is
formed about the product. In the decision stage, the consumer makes a decision to adopt or
reject the novel product. During implementation, the consumer adopts and consumes the
meat alternative frequently. Finally, in the confirmation stage, the consumer continues to
consume the meat substitute or revises decisions. Based on the innovation-decision process
for meat substitutes, policy measures, large-scale marketing campaigns, and offering meat
alternatives in canteens/cafeterias have been recommended [
107
]. However, because 3D-
printed meat alternatives are in their initial stages and not well established, the innovation-
decision process could improve the understanding of the consumer acceptance of 3D-
printed meat substitutes.
Sustainability 2021,13, 938 16 of 20
7. Future Prospects
To envision the future of 3D-printed meat analogs, it is important to focus on the
technologies involved and the state of meat analogs in the food market [
104
,
107
]. By looking
at novel products, the factors that influenced their success could be evaluated. While
several meat substitutes exist, not even one has been well established (eaten regularly).
However, because 3D printing is in its initial stage, research on both materials and printers
is required. Food-safe (bioprinting) and insect-derived materials that are suitable for
3D printing of meat analogs have to be explored. The utilization of plant and animal
byproducts/wastes for the fabrication of meat analogs could improve its sustainability.
Furthermore, the development of printers that are rapid, precise, and productive as well
as energy-efficient is required. The sustainability of meat analogs will depend on efficient
supply chain management (Farm to fork), which focuses on lowering production costs and
environmental impact. Utilizing the innovation-decision process, consumer acceptance of
3D meat analogs could be improved. In particular, policy measures, financial incentives,
and large-scale marketing campaigns could have a significant impact.
8. Conclusions
Livestock meat production is known to be related to the enormous utilization of land
and resources, and large GHG footprint. Researchers have fostered their efforts to substitute
livestock meat with other alternatives in order to provide sustainable benefits. Although
3D printing is suggested to have the capability to reduce wastes, energy, and monitory
inputs, its environmental impact has not been studied. For 3DP of meat analogs, materials
derived mainly from insects, plants, meat byproducts, and muscle cells are explored from
the technological feasibility, environmental impact, and consumer acceptance standpoints.
While several materials exist for skeletal muscle printing (bioprinting), only food-safe
materials are required for meat analog development. Bioprinting of vascular network may
not be required. Sustainability can be improved by utilizing generic/universal components
or scaffolds and optimizing cell sourcing and fabrication logistics. Using a wide variety
of plant materials, some start-up ventures claimed to have printed meat analogs. To im-
prove the sustainability of 3D printing, plant byproducts/waste-derived ingredients can be
considered. Apart from powders that are formed by milling, proteins (soluble/insoluble),
lipids, and fibers can also be produced. At optimal concentrations and different combi-
nations, these materials can potentially be used in meat substitutes. The utilization of
meat byproducts and wastes can be cost-effective and environmental friendly, thereby
making it sustainable. The fish industry wastes such as skin have been shown to have cost-
related advantages. Applying 3DP technology is well suited for the utilization of insects
and animal byproducts because their consumption faces perception- related challenges.
The utilization of cell cultures and meat byproducts for 3D printing of meat analogs could
face regulatory challenges. Environmental impact is related to energy consumption, which
in turn is related to the type of printers and materials as well as the weight of the final
products. Although animals and large land areas are not required for
in vitro
cultivation
of muscle cells or insect farming, the large-scale production of these meat substitutes is
still energy-intensive. While 3D design requirements, low precision, and low productivity
are the major demerits of 3DP, the lack of requirement for highly skilled labor is its major
merit. Along with the 3DP of meat analogs, LCA-based studies have yet to be conducted.
While more studies about consumer acceptance are needed, the lower acceptance of meat
analogs is attributed to the perceived strangeness of the 3DP foods. The sustainability of
plant- and animal-based food supply chains can be improved via the utilization of wastes
by 3D printing. The sustainability of 3D printers can be improved by printer innovations,
rational organization of activities, optimization of material flow, and logistic costs. This
novel technology is still in its initial phase, and its sustainability implications regarding the
large-scale production of meat substitutes have to be assessed.
Sustainability 2021,13, 938 17 of 20
Author Contributions:
Conceptualization, methodology, software, validation, formal analysis, inves-
tigation, resources, data curation, writing—original draft preparation, writing—review and editing,
visualization: K.R. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.
Funding: This research received no external funding.
Institutional Review Board Statement: Not applicable.
Informed Consent Statement: Not applicable.
Data Availability Statement:
No new data were created or analyzed in this study. Data sharing is
not applicable to this article.
Conflicts of Interest: The author declares no conflict of interest.
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