Meat could be used in 3D printing to produce a soft food with specific nutrients and suitable for people who have problems with chewing or swallowing.
By using a meat extract as ink, layer-by-layer, a food could be created that is as soft as butter and like meat, packed with nutrients.
Meat and Livestock Australia was alerted to the possibility of red meat three-dimensional printing after seeing it done with chicken meat in Germany.
The research, development and marketing body has investigated a way to turn every last bit of meat from the bone into a high value product and believes it is feasible.
Sean Starling the general manager of Research, Development and Innovation at MLA said a high protein ink or powder could be used in a 3D printer.
"You could have a sugar ink, fat ink and by using those different ink pots you could create a food that is catered to a specific calorific and protein value," Mr Starling said.
Red meat is valued as a source high in protein, iron and zinc, but also for its taste and texture.
But for people who have trouble chewing and swallowing and suffer dysphagia, those nutrients are hard to get.
MLA found Germany has 3D printed food in 1,000 nursing homes, and 3D printed food would be more appetising than pureed food.
Meat industry looks to future markets
In the UK "unique confectionery shapes using sugar are being created, and you can tailor design desserts with 3D-printed sugars," said Mr Starling.
"The non-sugar work has been demonstrated at the global trade exhibition for meat processing in Germany, the IFFA conference.
"Colleagues actually saw and tasted chicken being used as a raw ingredient to 3D-printed meat
"That both excited my team and raised alarm bells as well.
"If chicken is starting to do it, let's not miss that boat!"
While the future markets are not clearly defined, there is already scope for extracting more value from each carcase.
"We've got one customer at the moment who is looking at generating powdered meat, taking meat off cuts and creating a shelf-stable meat powder.
"That could be one of the raw ingredients for use in 3D printing."
PHOTO: Three-dimensional printed (3DP) food is the technology where food is created layer by layer in a process called additive manufacturing. (Supplied: MLA)
"We could see 3D printers in high end restaurants, or as a vending machine at a railway station or ferry quay."
You can't print a 3D steak, because it will not eat, feel or taste like a steak.
But it could be a product that has 5 per cent meat, collagen and sugar.
CSIRO looks at 3D printer created foods
"We believe the biggest opportunity is for people who have trouble consuming a full bodied steak, the aged and disabled, who can't eat highly textured and highly interconnective muscle foods," said Sean Starling of MLA.
"We're thinking you could still print a steak, you'll get the perception of a steak, the taste of a steak, but it will be almost like butter to chew through and swallow."
The CSIRO's team leader in Meat Science Dr Aarti Tobin said the combination of gels and starches with the meat ink will have to produce something delicious.
Dr Tobin was speaking to a conference of the Australian Meat Processors Corporation this week.
She did her PhD with RSL aged care homes in Queensland and a third of those people require modified foods.
"The food they're currently getting is served to them in an ice cream scoop so it doesn't look very good" she said.
"3D printing, has the advantage of recreating that shape on a plate, so if they're having carrots, you can shape it like a carrot.
"But with dysphagia sufferers it has to taste good, before they take the second spoon full."
Dr Tobin said the CSIRO Meat Science team had worked on recombined meat from a meat paste.
"The cubes were nice and soft, looked like diced meat, once you put it into your mouth you just pushed it against your palette and they fell apart and formed a nice poultice."
Following this research, MLA is currently finalising details for an upcoming 3DP conference in Australia in 2017 in partnership with Jakajima, who recently ran a successful series of 3DP conferences in Europe.
Read more at http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-12-02/meat-ink-3d-printing/8086060