Wonders never cease! First, we were told that you could 3D-print a gun from home! Now, it’s possible to 3D print your food! Imagine being able to print pizza instead of ordering it. Well, some 3D printers can do precisely that. That means astronauts can enjoy their favourite pizza flavour as they unravel the mysteries of the Milky Way.
As 3D food printers become increasingly affordable, it’s not inconceivable that in the not-so-distant future, most people will be printing (not cooking) their food at home. At the moment, most are cynical of eating printed food, but if you’ve ever bought crackers, candies or chocolate from a supermarket, you’ve already consumed 3D printed food.
It might take a bit longer to be able to order 3D printed meat, but with the speed at which the food printing technology is moving, that day is nearer than we think. Whether this will disrupt the food industry as we know it is not in question. What’s incontestable, however, is the fact that 3D printed food could be the missing link in the quest for global food security. It could be just what the UN needs to make SDG No. 2 a reality.
Without delving into how one can print food, here’s a look at the seven revolutionary benefits of 3D printed food:
1. Improved Culinary Creativity
With the ability to print food using 3D printer technology, we are likely to see improved culinary creativity. Using 3D technology, you can effortlessly experiment with different culinary scenarios to whip out a meal that’s balanced to perfection. 3D food printing gives unprecedented levels of culinary control and creativity.
2. Improved Nutrition
With 3D food printing, it would be possible to control the number of chemical additives in food. In the future, 3D printers will allow macro-nutritional level customization. This means you’ll be able to determine the exact amounts of omega-3, calcium, carbohydrates, and proteins you want in your meals. For instance, you will be able to instruct the printer to prepare your breakfast with the right fats and sugars ideal for your body and current state of health.
3. Hunger, Starvation and Malnutrition Could be a Thing of the Past
While 3D printed food could disrupt the food manufacturing sector, it could also sound the death knell to malnutrition, hunger and starvation. No one will ever have to die of hunger or malnutrition anymore. While this ideal scenario may take years of food printing innovations, when it finally happens, the UN SDG No. 2 on ‘Zero hunger’ would be within reach.
Compared to traditional systems of manufacturing food, 3D food printing is the key to making the world food and nutrition sufficient. Besides, food printers use hydrocolloid cartridges that minimize waste by forming gels once they combine with water. We are also likely to see the resurgence of some rarely used ingredients such as algae, duckweed, insects and grass in the formulation of popular dishes.
4. Meals in a Flash
With 3D food printing, you can experiment with chocolate/ sugar toppers and cocktail garnishes in a flash. The perfection of a 3D food printer is unmatched, even by trained pastry chefs. What this means is that the food industry will see a revolution where meals are prepared in a flash, on-demand, which will translate in less food wastage since all meals will be prepared in ‘lightning a la carte’ speed.
5. Innovations in Healthy Food
3D food printing is not restricted to the kitchen. A Dutch food designer, Chloé Rutzerveld, has experimented with food printers to make yeast that looks like crackers, which contains seeds and spores with the ability to sprout after some time. Such snacks, he contends, and other similarly transportable natural products, will one day revolutionize the food industry.
6. Personalized Nutrition
Currently, it’s hard to personalize nutrition to match with individual circumstances. With 3D food printing, however, this is highly feasible. All one will need to do is to follow digital instructions. This way, you will be able to come up with foods that have the exact percentage of nutrients depending on one’s gender, age, and even health condition. Food printers will be able to quickly determine the exact number of carbs, fatty acids and vitamins appropriate for your body.
7. Childhood Obesity Could be Eradicated
With childhood obesity reaching endemic proportions due to the sedentary nature of children’s lifestyles today, any news on improved nutrition is welcome. Today, children spend inordinate amounts of time playing games and watching movies, rarely venturing outdoors to play. Their idea of ‘play’ is sitting in front of a screen with a console in their hands, excited about their virtual ‘kills.’
While 3D food printing technology does not promise to force them outdoors to play, it can at least make sure they are taking the appropriate nutrition based on their physical activity level. This way, their bodies will ingest the right amounts of food to keep obesity at bay.