Could you imagine serving a 3D printed turkey for Christmas lunch? Or munching on a 3D printed pizza for an afternoon snack?
This is not as far fetched as it sounds. While 3D printers have mainly been in the news for their ability to manufacture inedible goods, they are increasingly being used for culinary endeavours.
3D food printers extrude soft liquid edible matter through nozzles that build up layer by layer in patters directed by a computer program. They can pump out everything from to chocolates, confectionery, biscuits and pancakes, to pasta, pizza and other savoury snacks.
News reports and industry blogs are very positive about what 3D food printing can offer. They have covered such events as Michelin-starred chefs experimenting with 3D food printers in pop-up restaurants in Europe.
The media have also reported on the potential for 3D printing to cater for astronauts, air travellers and people in emergency situations.
Nursing homes in Europe are offering 3D printed food with jelly-like texture for residents with chewing and swallowing difficulties. Developers of 3D food printers claim that people will soon have these devices in their kitchens, helping them prepare tasty and healthy foods at home.
But that’s not all. There’s also the radical idea of using insects and laboratory-grown meat in 3D printed food as a sustainable alternative to traditional protein sources.
Meat and Livestock Australia also recently announced that it is looking into ways to use 3D printing to produce new meat products to extract the most value from animal carcasses.
So it is not far-fetched to imagine serving a Christmas lunch with 3D printed food made from red meat and poultry, or decorative edible items made from fruit or vegetable purees, sugar or chocolate.
Maurizio Pesce/Flickr, CC BY
But would you eat it?
What do you think about 3D printed food? Would you try it, or offer it to family members or guests? Despite industry enthusiasm and investment in research and development, few studies have actually asked these questions of consumers.