You’ve tried plant-based meat, but here come meat-based plants

South Korean researchers infused actual rice grains with cow muscle and fat cells.

Yonsei University

A team of South Korean researchers at Yonsei University have developed a hybrid rice variant that’s quite literally filled with beef. The lab-grown rice grains were infused with cow muscle and fat cells, so they are one part plant and one part meat. The rice is also an appetizing shade of bright pink, which tends to happen when flesh enters the picture.

The team hopes to eventually offer a cheaper and more sustainable source of protein with a much lower carbon footprint than actual beef. It’ll also save time for those who enjoy a nice beef bowl over rice—the rice is the beef bowl.

Here’s how they achieved this culinary delight. The researchers first coated each grain of rice in fish gelatin to help the meat cells latch on. Next, they inserted cow muscle and fat stem cells into each grain, which are then left to culture in a petri dish. Rice grains feature a porous, yet organized, internal structure that actually mimics the “biological scaffolds” found in meat cells. So the rice grains offer a housing that allows the cells to grow and thrive, along with molecules to provide nourishment.

The meat cells grow both on the surface of the rice grain and inside of the grain itself. After around ten days, you get a finished product. The study, published in Matter, says the rice grains taste like beef sushi, which makes sense given the ingredients.

“Imagine obtaining all the nutrients we need from cell-cultured protein rice,” primary author Sohyeon Park said in a press release. “Rice already has a high nutrient level, but adding cells from livestock can further boost it.”

The team even envisions a day when livestock could be eliminated from the process entirely. They hope to develop a line of cells that continue to divide and grow over long periods of time, so they can source from that line instead of from actual cows. “After that, we can create a sustainable food system,” Park told CNN.

Obviously, this is still in the research phase, so pink beef rice won’t be showing up on restaurant menus anytime soon. The team’s refining the growth process to produce rice grains with more nutritional value. They also hope to further improve the taste, texture and color. “It could one day serve as food relief for famine, military ration, or even space food,” Park said in the press release.

This is just one part of a global effort to do something, anything, about the ongoing ecological disaster that is meat production. Livestock intended for slaughter are responsible for 6.2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere each year, according to a UN report. That’s nearly 12 percent of all human-caused carbon emissions.

To that end, there are various efforts underway to create palatable and economical lab-grown meat, from cultured chicken nuggets to steaks grown using a similar gelatin-based biological scaffolding system to the aforementioned beef rice. There’s also the rise of insects as a viable source of protein.