A research team in South Korea has developed a hybrid type of beef rice containing cow muscle and fat cells, CNN reported.

Developed in a laboratory, the hybrid variety contained cow muscle and fats cells inside the rice grains, the 15 February report said.

The pink coloured rice could offer a more environmentally sustainable source of protein with a much lower carbon footprint than beef, according to the researchers.

“Imagine obtaining all the nutrients we need from cell-cultured protein rice,” lead author Sohyeon Park was quoted as saying.

“Rice already has a high nutrient level, but adding cells from livestock can further boost it.”

Published in the Matter journal, the project involved coating the rice in fish gelatine to improve the meat cells’ ability to attach to the grains.

Cow muscle and fat stem cells were then inserted into the rice grains, which were then placed in a petri dish to culture.

Meat cells then grew on the surface of the rice grain and inside the grain itself and, after about nine to 11 days, the final product was produced.

Similar in taste to micro-beef sushi, the final product has a different texture, nutritional profile and flavour to traditional rice grains, according to the study.

The beef rice was firmer and more brittle than the typically sticky, soft texture of regular rice and was also higher in protein and fat, the study found.

Scientists steamed the rice to analyse it, finding that rice with higher muscle content had an aroma similar to beef and almonds, while rice with higher fat content had an aroma like cream or coconut oil.

Speaking to CNN, Park said the team had experimented with a range of food products, but previous models had not been successful.

For example, one research project involved infusing soyabeans with animal meat cells using a similar method, but due to the large cellular scaffolding of the soyabean, consumers could not “feel the meat-like texture.”

According to Neil Ward, an agri-food and climate specialist and professor at the University of East Anglia, who was not involved in the study, the data looks “very positive,” with potential for helping develop “healthier and more climate-friendly diets in future”.

However, he was quoted as saying the critical test “is around public appetite for these sorts of lab-developed foods.”

The research team now planned to further develop the process to improve cell growth in the rice grain and hoped to improve the texture and taste of the rice, Park added.