By Gerry Mulvaney, European Sales Manager, Landa Digital Printing
News that the world’s first test tube beef burger has been produced in Europe has dominated the front pages recently. It appears that scientists in the Netherlands have managed to grow stem cells taken from a cow into a form of beef.
The process took around three months to complete. It involved growing the stem cells in a petri dish, then stimulating them with electricity to get them to bulk up, then mixing in animal fat also grown in the laboratory. Finally they added beetroot juice and saffron to give a more authentic beef colour to the mix. The experimental mixture was transformed into a beef burger and cooked on stage by a celebrity chef.
Why anyone would want to do such a thing mystified me, but it seemed to make sense to Google founder Sergy Brin who has backed this venture. Turns out it has the serious purpose of trying to find a way of producing meat in a sustainable way. This is targeted at the growing populations of the world who now want the same western style foods we enjoy.
The news made me wonder what they would do about the packaging for the meat. If you are going to develop artificial meat with the intention of cutting down the production cycle – (I am not a farmer, but it seems to me that 3 months is quite a short time to produce a cow?), then will the current timescales in packaging production still cut it? Once the process of artificial manufacturing becomes efficient and commercial – as it surely will – manufacturer’s turnaround expectations will naturally apply to all the steps in the process.
Let’s be clear, you cannot grow flexible packaging or a burger box in a laboratory. (Or can you? Some of the things I saw recently in Israel made me pause before I wrote that sentence!. Nevertheless, the traditional production methods of converters will come under scrutiny if they are unable to keep pace with technology. One of of the reasons for the high level of interest in Nanography® at present is because Landa Digital Printing is poised to radically change packaging technology.
In today’s world of social media, brand owners are well aware of the power that one-to-one marketing brings, and are looking at ways of leveraging it. They are prepared to push the boundaries with both the manufacturing and the marketing processes they use in order to drive their products onto our plates or into our glasses. It is not hard to understand why they too are curious about what Nanography might do for them.
In Israel, large format B1 digital presses are being manufactured for packaging converters to use in 2014. For now artificial meat is purely a hypothetical – I have not yet met anyone who is actually planning to eat it any time soon. From what I witnessed while visiting Landa Digital Printing it is highly likely that you will have a regular beef burger in a versioned or personalised package well before you taste your first artificial meat.