If it looks, feels, and tastes like a tomato, then it’s a tomato, right? Even though your senses are leading you to the conclusion that what you are about to consume is one of your favorite foods, you might actually be wrong. Today’s high-tech gadgetry is making it more difficult to decipher whether what you’re eating is the real deal or machine-made. The capability and scalability of 3D printers continues to grow at a torrid pace. Objects as puny as a pen, to others as large as a car or house, are being digitally produced by this modern machinery.
With the exception of artificial limbs, mostly common inanimate objects have been on the 3D printing menu. However, more forward-thinking minds are delving into the possibility of printing their own food. The future is now. Multiple companies (including Hershey’s) already have invested large sums of money in the technology to develop and eventually produce 3D versions of culinary favorites such as chocolate, pizza, ravioli, and corn chips to name a few.
Hey, who’s up for printing out a nice, juicy steak? No, this is not a trick question. Bio-printed meat (not the most appetizing-sounding thing) is being vetted. And yes, fruits and vegetables fresh from the printer are in the mix, too.
The Perfect Reproduction
Recently, it was announced that Dovetailed, a Cambridge, England-based company had cracked the code on 3D-printed fruit. By using an established molecular gastronomy technique called “spherification,” the company says it can combine liquid-filled spheres of similar and dissimilar flavors to successfully print out edible specimens that look and taste like apples, pears, raspberries (see video below), or customized fruit per the user’s desire. Voilà! Fresh fruit that’s always in season with the simple push of a button.
Sounds almost too good to be true. But if this supposed mechanical grower/harvester-in-one produces as promised, it may mean the end of mealy apples (yay!), shelflife issues, farm labor problems, and — last but not least — no more pests and diseases to worry about. Take that, citrus greening!
Wow, this is great … Whoa, wait, it also probably means the end of farming as we know it. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.
With all promising research and development, comes time built in to assess efficiency, safety, practicality, and profitability. Even though scientific minds have broken new ground in printable food production, there is still much work to be done to take it beyond a lab to the hungry masses. From there, who knows? The time may come when we’re all printing up our own dinners — “Jetson” style — complete with U.S. Department of 3D-recommended portions of fruits, veggies, grains, and biomeat.
We’re not there yet. For now, there truly is no substitute for the real thing. But we are getting closer.