Scientists from Osaka University claim to have created the world’s first 3D-printed wagyu beef in Japan this week, using bovine satellite cells and adipose-derived stem cells isolated from Wagyu cows to 3D-print a realistic steak piece containing muscle, fat, and blood vessels.
Wagyu can be translated literally to “Japanese cow,” and is famous around the globe for its high content of intramuscular fat. Known as marbling or Sashi, this fat provides the beef with its distinctive flavors and texture. As Wagyu beef has become an interesting and vibrant niche in the alt meat innovation landscape, vegconomist takes a look at the biggest alt Wagyu developments to date.
Alt Wagyu – 2018 to present
- December, 2018: Eat Just, producer of JUST Egg, was one of the first to take up the Wagyu challenge, announcing a “clean meat partnership” with Japanese beef producer, Toriyama, to produce cell-cultured wagyu beef. Since then, Eat Just’s cell-based arm has developed into GOOD MEAT, which recently raised $170 million in fresh funding for the expansion of the cell-based subsidiary.
- June, 2020: Sydney-based food company JAT Oppenheimer created a vegan Wagyu that retails in Australian Asian stores under the brand name V Meat. Predictably, Australian beef farmers and lobbyists were outraged by the product, calling it “offensive” and “nonsensical”.
- July, 2020: Vancouver-headquartered Top Tier Foods creates “Waygu”, its plant-based wagyu product. World-renowned Master Chef Hidekazu Tojo is highly impressed by the vegan beef; “I was unsure about the quality,” stated Chef Tojo, “But when I tried it, I could not believe it was made from plants. My first impression was that it was real Wagyu beef. I was immediately very impressed.”
- February, 2021: Canada’s Top Tier Foods launches its plant-based “Waygu” beef at Advanced Fresh Concepts, the largest sushi franchise in the US.
- April, 2021: Silicon Valley-based Orbillion Bio, the cell-cultured company working on wagyu beef and other heritage meats, raises $5 million in an oversubscribed seed funding round. The funding is going towards the pilot production of its cell-cultured wagyu beef. The company has held a public tasting event where it presented its cell-cultured Wagyu, which proved to be a huge hit and resulted in the surge of interest.
- August, 2021: Scientists at Osaka University using 3D bioprinting have created a wagyu steak piece using individual fibers including muscle, fat, and blood vessels to create a traditional and realistic marbled Wagyu beef.
In an interview with vegconomist, Top Tier Foods founder Blair Bullus explained that wagyu is prestigious and appealing to alt meat innovators: “Wagyu beef is widely considered the best beef in the world by meat-eaters and is renowned for its fat marbling and tender qualities.”
“To make sure we replicated wagyu as closely as possible, we partnered with Japanese manufacturers who both understand Wagyu beef better than anyone (wagyu literally means: “wa” – Japanese, “gyu” – cattle) and have centuries of working with soybeans, the main ingredients in Waygu,” he added.